SCORES of women prisoners rioted for several hours at the Women’s Prison in Golden Grove, Arouca, causing panic and mayhem among the skeletal women prisons officers staff between Saturday night throughout the early morning hours yesterday.
The prisoners expressed their anger over not being allowed their airing and other privileges at the prison, because of a severe staff shortage at the women’s prison, by shouting, banging their drinking utensils on the bars of their cells and hurling personal items at prisons officers passing by. No one was injured during the riot.
Newsday was told that the prisoners began the riot at about 6 pm on Saturday and it lasted until two o’clock yesterday morning when the prisoners began throwing rolls of toilet paper and almost anything possible that they could get their hands on at the female prisons officers on duty.
Newsday understands that there are supposed to be approximately 20 officers per shift at the women’s prison but on the weekend there was only six officers on duty per shift.
There are claims that prisons officers, instead of being assigned to regular duties including taking the women prisoners outside of their cells for airing, are being assigned administrative/clerical duties.
According to a prisons source, prisons officers are trained to man the prisons and overseer inmates and are given a monthly salary of $7,000, whereas individuals hired to do administrative/clerical work only receive wages of $3,000-$4,000 per month.
“These trained prisons officers are being placed to do desk work such as to see about officers’ vacation and sick leave forms. They are not doing the duties generally assigned to a prisons officer, and the prisoners whose privileges, including airing time, are affected, rioted between Saturday night and this morning,” the prisons source said.
Another bone of contention, according to the source, was the fact that women prisons officers are not even armed with a baton while they are on duty within the prison walls, “the female officers are afraid to work because they are afraid they are attacked by women prisoners. Not even a baton is issued to these women prisons officers who can be easily overpowered if the women prisoners decide to create an uprising,” the source said.
“When the riot was going on, the officers were afraid to open the cell block or even come close to the prisoners…this can’t be right. Some sort of redress action needs to take place by the Prisons administration,” the source said.
Contacted yesterday for comment, President of the Prisons Officers Association Second Division, Rajkumar Ramroop, confirmed that a riot did take place at the women’s prison which lasted for several hours and also confirmed that it was triggered by the severe short staffing that currently exists.
Ramroop revealed that recently, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday along with the Minister of Justice Herbert Volney visited the prison but were only shown the “good side” of prison life. Ramroop said that during that visit the prisons officers, especially the women officers were not given the opportunity to meet with the ministers to voice their issues and concerns. Panday’s portfolio includes the day to day operations of all prisons in the country.
“Officers who are working the main shift are being sent to do all kinds of desk jobs rather than carry out their specific duties. The officers are pleading with the prisons administration to address the problem with the staffing and also to protect them whilst they are in the prisons. “But, it seems as though it was just a public relations gimmick when Mr Panday and Volney were brought in. The prisons officers were not allowed to voice their issues,” Ramroop said.
“We the association do not condone the action by the female prisoners but we understand their anger. We are calling on the prisons administration to address the staffing problem.”
Efforts to reach Ministers Panday and Volney as well as Prisons Commissioner John Rougier yesterday for comment proved futile.