Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer
Dept of Correctional Services clamps down on bling culture
INMATES AT two of the country's high-security prisons are being issued with uniforms by the Department of Correctional Services.
Prison boss, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast, who made the discloure on Tuesday, said this is the first phase of a plan to put all 4,500 inmates and wards of the state across the entire penal system in uniform.
The move is also part of the efforts by the Department of Correctional Services to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing liquor-and-marijuana-laced party staged by prisoners at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre last December.
"There are a whole host of security issues that will be best served by having the inmates in a uniform," Prendergast asserted as he sought to defend the move.
One correctional officer has been dismissed and an investigation is being conducted to determine if others should face disciplinary action for the security breach.
Outlining the department's plan, Prendergast told The Gleaner that by the end of next month he expects that all inmates at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre and Tower Street facility will be issued with two sets of uniforms.
The new prison garb comprise a khaki pants and a plain T-shirt. They will have other features, but Prendergast said he is not ready to discuss those publicly.
"What we are doing now is issuing them to the inmates and withdrawing their civilian clothes and returning them to their families," he disclosed.
"The critical aim right now is to get them all into uniforms and then we will adjust the details on the particular uniforms afterwards," added Prendergast.
The prison boss could not give a time frame when inmates at the other penal facilities will be in uniform, noting that it is a costly initiative and that his department is faced with financial issues".
"We are starting with the priority institutions and then rolling it out to the others afterwards," he said.
Prendergast said the move has been met with opposition from some inmates and their families, but made it clear that the department is undaunted and is moving ahead with its plans.
A major consideration, Prendergast argued, is that having the inmates in uniform eliminates several security risks at the prisons.
"If an inmate manages to get into a restricted area he will be easily recognised," he cited as one example.
inmates fight over clothes
In addition, he said replacing the civilian clothes will also help to reduce the number of violent clashes inside the prisons.
"You saw the photos of the Tower Street party where people had designer clothes, hats, sneakers, jewellery and all kinds of things ... We do have incidents of violence related to having those expensive items with the inmates," the prison boss explained.
"If we remove those items ... things that would initiate violent confrontation inside the prions ... I think we should have less incidents overall," he added.
Correctional department officials got wind of the jailhouse party, first reported in a Sunday Gleaner exposť in February, through a cache of pictures left at a St Andrew photolab by a correctional officer.
The pictures, which were believed to have been taken by a correctional officer, showed prisoners smoking marijuana and drinking expensive liquors such as Alozade, Hennessy and rum cream.