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Law body wants audit of prisons

Sunday, July 26, 2015
A police sniffer dog is allowed to pick up a scent from the crashed Nissan Navarra left behind by escapees Allan ‘Scanny’ Martin, Hassan Atwell and Christopher Selby who crashed the vehicle along Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, near the Port-of-Span General Hospital on Friday.

The Law Association of T&T yesterday expressed deep concern over the “deteriorating state of command and control in the prison system in this country,” as it called for an “immediate and thorough investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Friday’s prison break.

The association, through a media statement signed by honorary secretary Shankar Bidasiee, also called for a comprehensive audit of the prison system, especially given the conditions in which officers are forced to work and prisoners are forced to remain. None of the circumstances named above could be treated as “isolated,” the association said. “They underscore the urgent need for a comprehensive and urgent audit into the conditions, systems and procedures employed in our penal system particularly at Remand Yard in Port-of-Spain to inform necessary remedial preventative measures,” it explained. 

The country had experienced the “trauma” of the very recent escape of prisoners and the accompanying outbreak of gunfire exchanges in public spaces which resulted in the death of PC Sherman Maynard and the wounding of other officers, the association said. 

On Friday, prisoners Allan ‘Scanny’ Martin, Hassan Atwell and Christopher Selby staged a daring escape from the Port-of-Spain prison. The men, armed with guns, opened fire on officers as they made their escape and Maynard, who was on duty, was shot in the exchange. 

Martin was also subsequently killed during a shootout with police at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, after the men crashed their getaway vehicle just outside the health facility and split up seeking to escape the police. Atwell and Selby remain at large and are considered armed and dangerous.

The association said the deplorable conditions of the Remand Yard and the equally unacceptable periods of incarceration of people who have not, after many years, been properly and duly processed according to the law had existed now for an unacceptable period of time. Added to this, the association said, were the complaints of prisons officers seeking better terms and conditions of service under which they discharged their duties. Those complaints were now before the Industrial Court, the association said, and it expected they would receive the urgent hearing that they warranted.


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