Fri | Aug 18, 2017

New prison rules - Correctional officers to take polygraph tests, scanning machines to be installed

Published:Wednesday | March 1, 2017 | 3:00 AMSyranno Baines
Pearnel Charles Jr

State Minister for National Security Pearnel Charles Jr has declared it "time to draw a line in the sand" as the Government yesterday revealed several new measures aimed at putting a stop to the smuggling of contraband into Jamaica's correctional facilities.

The measures, including the polygraphing of all recruits and correctional officers, are also aimed at addressing ongoing claims that music illegally recorded behind bars has been making its way on to the national airwaves.

"We have to respect the public's concerns, protect our citizens and secure the reputation of the honest, hard-working correctional officers in the system," Charles said in a statement following an eruption of controversy, over the past week, around the recording of music by prisoners.

The controversy began with former Culture Minister Lisa Hanna stating there was need for discussion around whether music from felons, such as dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel, should be banned from local radio stations. In swift response, fans of Kartel, who is appealing a murder conviction, hurled a slew of obscene threats via social media, which subsequently led to a police investigation.

"We will make every effort to eradicate corruption and criminality and to hold persons accountable for breaches, as well as deficiencies in management. It is unacceptable that breaches continue year after year, and it is time to draw a line in the sand," said Charles.

He added: "What now exists is a dysfunctional system, where we have to contend with contraband entering our correctional facilities and the allegations of complicity of our staff in this matter. This poses a potential threat to our national security and to our efforts to redefine and transform the Department of Correctional Services (DCS)."

In acknowledging music and the creative arts as integral tools of rehabilitation, Charles said the DCS encourages authorised and structured participation in rehabilitation programmes.

"There are two radio stations at Tower Street and St Catherine, which have been utilised in that regard," said Charles." This, however, does not include unauthorised and illegal recordings. Any such activities are prohibited, and punitive action will be taken against any officer or inmate found involved and in breach of these regulations."

Four DCS officers were recently arrested and are currently before the court on charges related to corrupt dealings with inmates, while other officers have been removed for alleged unprofessional conduct.

The DCS has also deepened its collaboration with the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, in the analysis of data found on cellular phones seized in the correctional institutions.

Security measures to be implemented

- Amendments to existing legislation, regulations and procedures to increase accountability and enforcement.

- The installation of X-ray scanning machines at the Tower Street and St Catherine adult correctional centres and the Horizon Adult Remand Centre.

- Metal detectors and new entry-management protocols.

- Polygraphing of all recruits and correctional officers.

- Relocation of inmates and rezoning spaces in all institutions.

- Expanded CCTV coverage across the correctional system.

- Enhanced use of cellular phone jamming technology.