Apr 18, 2016 News
– wife pleads
As tension remains high at the Camp Street prison, the wife of a prison warden is crying out at the system which she says has left her husband with nightmares and is tearing their happy family life apart.
In an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, the woman who spoke on the condition on anonymity, related that her husband is one of the few ranks who did not report sick after inmates virtually began roaming about the prison at will.
She said that with the absence of so many of his colleagues, he is now working 12-hour shifts, rather than the stipulated eight hours.
She states that her husband is also having nightmares about the fire in which 17 prisoners perished. According to her, during a particularly violent nightmare he struck out, hitting her in her stomach.
“He would wake up screaming about fire! Out the fire there! I would have done my best with him. They did offer to counsel him, but he would have had to do it on his own time.”
And the hostility between ranks and inmates, as well as between honest ranks and corrupt ones, has only added to his stress, she said.
She stated that some inmates recently retaliated against her spouse after he stopped one prisoner from going into the gym, which is a restricted area for violent offenders.
“He is the one they threw urine on,” she stated. “Two prisoners were about to go to the restricted area. He was locking the door to prevent them. They stomped him through the door and threw urine on him.”
According to her, they then told him “You s***t, you gun see what gun happen to you today.”
She related that in the aftermath of the urine assault on her husband, pus filled boils have broken out on his face and body.
Threats and stigma
According to the woman, her husband has received the most horrendous threats imaginable from the prisoners, who have come to view him as the enemy because he has refused to be corrupt and allow them to have items listed as contraband.
“A prisoner threatened to bite off my husband’s wedding ring and he started leaving it at home,” she recalled.
“Another time he parted a fight with them and took away the knife. And they threatened him.”
She related her conviction that it is ‘dirty’ prison officers who put honest officers in danger. Giving an example, the woman noted that if one officer allows a prisoner to have narcotics, while another enforces the rules against drug possession, the prisoner will express hostility for the ‘uncooperative’ rank.
She recalled that some time before the fire her husband’s work boots had come loose and there was a two week delay before the situation was rectified. She stated that while there are prisoners with specific skills, such as tailoring or shoe making, it usually took some kind of incentive like cigarettes to get them to use that skill.
“He walk for two weeks with that open out shoe, rather than give the prisoner that cigarette,” she related. “A few days ago I asked him to stay home because of the sores in his head and he said no, he don’t play with his job. Once he has strength he will go. That is the kind of man I married.”
As if the threats within prison are not enough, she has revealed that persons on the bus and car parks have marked her husband as a prison officer, despite him not wearing his uniform and are threatening him.
According to this prison officer’s spouse, some minibus operators have gone as far as to deny him entry to their buses when he is headed to work. She stated that as recent as Friday evening he was forced to make a report at the Stabroek Market police outpost, because of an altercation between himself and a bus conductor.
“My husband has to travel to Georgetown and then to Camp Street,” she related. “Now he has to take a taxi from the park, because people know him and are threatening him. And it is expensive. He is now stigmatized against and it is very bad. He cannot wear his prison uniform.”
She believes that measures taken by Ministers of Public Security and State, Khemrj Ramjattan and Joseph Harmon, to go into the prison and appeal directly to the inmates may have emboldened prisoners, who are now having a free run of the prison during the day.
“When he came home Friday night, they were still threatening him,” she said. “During the day the prisoners have free reign. If they say they want Dhal and rice, they get it. They go into the restricted areas. They are not allowing their cells to be closed. You have prisoners on Facebook every day.”
“Meanwhile, my husband has to lodge his cell phone at the front. I can’t even call and check on him unless I call at the front and sometimes I get busy tone. He has been put in a setting where he has no cell phone and in addition, goes unarmed, so no protection.”
Low pay, no overtime
According to sources, 42 prison wardens have reported sick out of fear of an attack from prisoners. There are even reports that a warden was struck in the head by inmates.
And though President David Granger has ordered beefing up of security and an extension of outer cordons, there are reports that prisoners have become more menacing than they ever were.
While her husband has continued on duty, the emotional woman shed some light into what he earns for all the extra hours he works. According to her, he earns no overtime pay and gets the flat salary of $51,000.
The woman also expressed that she has been closely following the events at the CoI in the media. However, she is concerned at the fact that no one is taking the stand to represent the prison wardens, while a number of prisoners have already had their say.
It is understood that in the wake of the March 5 prison fire, inmates have become brazen in exposing their weapons, while behaving much more aggressively toward prison wardens. Thus, the officers, being fearful for their lives, have decided to stay away.
It is reported that policemen are inside the prison, helping the wardens to control the situation. There are also reports of an upsurge in cases of marijuana being thrown over the prison fences and instances where prisoners would spit on wardens and throw faeces and urine on them.
The deadly fire, which precipitated the launch of the CoI on the orders of President Granger, was started by inmates housed in the Capital Offences section of the prison during the riot.
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