Press Clippings

Army take-over
A section of the St Catherine District Prison in Spanish Town.    Violence broke out last week at the maximum security prison

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), is to take over the security of the island's prisons, national and security minister, K D Knight, said yesterday. Knight, who was speaking yesterday on Radio Jamaica's call-in programme, Hotline, announced that soldiers will replace security guards at sentry boxes and will also be responsible for escorting prisoners. He did not give a date when the JDF would take over, and it was not clear last night what role the guards employed by Milex Security Company would play under the new arrangements with the army.

This move comes in the wake of the interdiction of more than 800 prison warders who staged a sick-out in January to press for the removal of prison' boss, Lt Col John Prescod, numerous prison breaks and mounting incidents of violence inside the prisons. Soldiers have been assisting with security at the island's prisons since the interdiction of the m6re that 800 warders earlier this year, but there have been complaints that they were not providing adequate support for the warders who were left to man the facilities when their colleagues were sent home.

Last week, there were clashes inside the General Penitentiary, St Catherine District Prison, and the South Camp rehabilitation centre as fresh rounds of violence broke out at the three facilities.

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KNIGHT...soldiers to replace guards in sentry boxes

Last Saturday a press conference called to declare a truce at the General Penitentiary turned bloody when two inmates were stabbed and dumped in the middle of a press conference that was being presided over by Lt Col Prescod, and had in attendance local and foreign journalists. There were six stabbing incidents at the GP, seven at the St Catherine District Prison, while five inmates at the South Camp Rehabilitation Centre were doused with acid during a fight last week.

Meanwhile, Lambert Brown, the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) first vice president told the Obverver yesterday that he had "no problem as such" with the decision to replace the present security company with army personnel. "The militarisation of the prison is not the answer," he said, "but that is government's decision, and we will work with the minister."

The 170 new trainees who were recently recruited for the prison service will be under the command of the army when their training ends in August and another 130 who will begin their six month training later this month will have the rehabilitation of prisoners as part of their training.

High Court judge, Justice Karl Harrison, who was the sole enquirer into last October's escape of 21 dangerous prisoners from the General Penitentiary in Kingston, in his report submitted in January, recommended that the authorities improve and enforce prison security measures in order to restore public confidence in the custodial system.

"The laxness by warders and the breakdown of prison procedures are some of the factors which are of grave concern and they must be addressed immediately," Harrison said.