Horizon gates open to Witter
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Ministry of National Security yesterday told Prime Minister Bruce Golding that it had received legal advice to prevent persons from entering the Horizon Remand Centre as it was considered a crime scene.
Gleaner sources say prison officials were advised by the offices of the Solicitor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions not to allow anyone to enter the area which was the scene of Monday's prison riot at the facility.
The high-security facility was caught in the throes of the prison riot, which was crushed by members of the security forces, but not before 40 prisoners and nine correctional officers sustained injuries.
National Security Minister Dwight Nelson would only say the explanation requested by the prime minister had been dispatched.
The decision to prevent a team from the Office of the Public Defender from entering the premises of the Horizon Remand sorely displeased Public Defender Earl Witter, who raised the matter in the public domain.
Nelson reportedly instructed his permanent secretary, Richard Reese, to obtain the directive from the two legal offices in writing to enable him to dispatch it to the prime minister.
It is understood the investigators have not ruled out the collusion of correctional officers in the riot.
The ministry had stated that the prisoners had rioted because of a clampdown in the distribution of contraband, including cellphones, in the prison, but the prisoners denied this, saying they were protesting the lack of water and the generally poor condition under which they were locked down.
In response to the public defender's complaint, Industry and Commerce Minister Karl Samuda on Wednesday told The Gleaner/Power 106 News that Golding would not tolerate any move to thwart the efforts of the public defender to discharge his duty and had requested an explanation from the relevant authorities.
Witter, who had entered the facility with Nelson during a tour on Tuesday, said he had grave misgivings that forensic evidence could disappear.
Nelson yesterday held a brief discussion with Witter, who was also at the facility.
The ministry said the cell block was released by Jamaica Constabulary Force Scene of Crime personnel yesterday to facilitate the afternoon's visit by the minister and the public defender.
Nelson has also received the preliminary report from the correctional services on Monday's incident.
He said as soon as the clean-up process has been completed, work will begin to significantly improve the physical security.
Commissioner of Corrections June Spence-Jarrett says clean-up of the cell block is expected to begin today, now that it has been released.
Outside the remand centre, Nelson spoke with a small group of relatives of some of the inmates.
The relatives expressed concern about the difficulties they had in getting information about the condition of inmates.
The national security minister assured them that arrangements have been made to ensure that personnel from the Department of Correctional Services facilitate their queries in a speedy and timely manner.
The ministry said four of the 15 inmates who were admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital on Monday remain at that institution.
Two have been sent to the medical facility at Horizon; three have been transferred to the hospital at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, while three more have been sent to the hospital at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, taking the total number to six at that facility.