Home Letters Stiff penalties needed to stop smuggling at prisons
What is happening at the Lusignan Prison? This penal institution is supposed to be a place of detention, discipline, correction and rehabilitation, where prisoners are kept out of trouble; but it seems that it has become a hotbed for criminal activity, especially smuggling.
On July 8, a man escaped after attempting to smuggle cigarettes and marijuana in a pair of sneakers into the Lusignan Prison. Earlier that same day, prison officers found a black bag with marijuana, lighters and other items in a drain next to the prison’s pig pen.
Early this month, another smuggler attempted to throw a bag of contraband items over the prison walls, including 1002 grams of narcotics, a large quantity of tobacco leaves, four cell phones without SIM cards, one charger, one earpiece, and 33 packets of Bristol cigarettes.
Last month, a Lusignan prisoner was caught with knife and cutlass. Also, in June, a search of the prison turned up 31 improvised weapons, cell-phones and chargers, SIM cards, memory cards, phone cards, metal pipes, wood, marijuana, cigarettes, plus a tattoo machine and ink.
Recently, I wrote a letter to the media about smuggling in Guyana, but inmates at the Lusignan and New Amsterdam Prisons have mastered this criminal activity to such an extent that they are proudly displaying their smuggled goods in posts on social media.
Something is seriously wrong. How in heaven’s name are prisoners getting their hands on drugs, cell phones, digital tablets, alcohol, cigarettes, weapons, and even a tattoo machine? We have to upgrade and reinforce our prisons and stop this nonsense now.
I commend the alert Police officers who last month intercepted a smuggler and seized cannabis, cigarettes, phones, and a host of other prohibited items. But how are these items getting to the prisoners time and time again?
We cannot escape from the possibility that there is a system of collusion in the Lusignan Prison and in other penal institutions. There has to be collusion among the smugglers, the prison workers and the prisoners.
The Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, on more than one occasion, in relation to other jails, had stated his concerns that prison wardens were facilitating the entry of smuggled items into the prisons.
In April, Mr Samuels reported that large numbers of prohibited items were being found in prisons despite high security levels. A case that comes to mind is that of the prison warder caught trying to smuggle phones, chargers, marijuana and more into the Mazaruni Prison.
Why? It is because the penalties for smuggling prohibited items into the prisons are not severe enough? Smugglers do not hesitate to take the risk because the penalties are soft, the risk of being caught is low, and the profit margins are high. It’s as simple as that.
There is only one solution: the penalties must be so severe that as soon as the idea of smuggling contraband into prison pops into a person’s head, that smuggler, prison worker or inmate would think, think again, and then decide not to take the chance.
I see that Mr Samuels is very concerned about the situation, and has a zero-tolerance, transparent approach. Therefore, I suggest to Mr Samuels that they should secretly put tracking devices on intercepted contraband items, and let them go through to trap those at the receiving end.
I cannot tell Mr Samuels how to do his job; but if it is not being done already, then I also suggest that guards should be regularly rotated to different locations in the prison system, to prevent the development of any ‘unholy alliances’ with smugglers and prisoners.
The Lusignan Prison seems to be a primary hotbed for smuggling, but the same procedures should be put in place at the other prisons as well, because this problem is not confined to just one facility.
Let us take this situation in hand quickly. Prisons are becoming dangerous places. I can foresee many scenarios for extortion. For example, prisoners struggling to survive inside might be forced to recruit wives, relatives, or offspring to meet the demands of domineering prisoners.
Keep striving, Mr Samuels.
Roshan Khan, Snr