Up until yesterday, 366 gangsters were in custody in the nation’s prisons. Once the conversion process is completed, these detainees will be transferred to the new detention centre which can accommodate up to 1,500 prisoners.
The warehouse is owned by Amalgamated Industries limited and was formerly part of an industrial assembly plant. Last week, due to concerns expressed by prisons authorities about the dangers of housing different gang leaders and members in the same cells at Golden Grove Prison in Arouca, government took a decision to search for alternative accommodation and the former assembly plant was identified. Permission was sought and was granted to have that building handed over to the prisons authorities.
Newsday understands that TC Developers and General Contractors of West Trinidad was given the contract to transform the huge warehouse into a detention facility complete with prison cells and offices.
When Newsday visited the site yesterday, prisons officers were overseeing workmen who were building the prisons cells. Over 200 prisons officers and 197 recruits who are currently in training for entry into the Prisons’ Service will manage this new detention centre.
A foreman at the site yesterday said he could not divulge any information because of the sensitive nature of the operations there. Workmen told Newsday they expect work on the warehouse to be completed “in a matter of days” and the area will be a restricted one because of the high-risk prisoners who will be housed there.
Yesterday, Prisons Commissioner John Rougier said he could not divulge any information with respect to the alternative detention centre. “Unless I am so instructed, I cannot give any information about where the detention centre will be located or what type of operation is taking place there,” Rougier said.
Minister of National Security Brigadier John Sandy confirmed that an alternative detention centre is being prepared and once it is ready for occupation he will declare the building as a jail and prisoners detained under the state of emergency will be taken there.
“If the building is ready by tomorrow, I will make that declaration and the persons detained will be taken there,” Sandy said. However, he declined to give the location of the detention centre.
Sandy also disclosed that the prisons authorities have indicated there is still enough space at Golden Grove prison to house additional detainees, but Government is not waiting for an overcrowding problem to take place before it prepares alternative accommodation.
Up to yesterday, 1,143 persons were detained since the start of the state of emergency, with 366 of those detainees being gang leaders and gang members.
Those 366 are currently being housed at an area of the Golden Grove prison commonly called “Guantanamo”.
However, since several of those gang leaders and members were warring before the start of the state of emergency, concerns have been expressed by prisons officers about possible acts of violence taking place in cell blocks among these detainees and they want the authorities to separate gang members to avoid any violence.
Last week, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan revealed that he had asked Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal to look at the possibility of using the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba as a possible site for detaining gang leaders and members. However, no decision has been taken with respect to using that site.
Yesterday, president of the Prisons Officers Association Rajkumar Ramroop told Newsday while his executive has no problem with prisons officers being reassigned to a detention centre, they want the authorities to also ensure their safety.
The last time government set up detention centres for prisoners was in the aftermath of the 1990 coup attempt when buildings at Chaguaramas were used to house insurrectionists.