Opinion: Prison safety

POSTED: 02/28/14 11:26 PM

Citizens are entitled to their safety. That sounds good, but the truth is of course that we do not live in a world that is one hundred percent foolproof safe. People commit crimes against fellow-citizens, accidents happen – it is really quite dangerous out there. Expressed in a percentage, the chance that a citizen will become the victim of murder or manslaughter is slim. However, that does not do you any good if fate rules against you.

Lately, the world seems to be almost safer outside the walls of the pointe Blanche Prison than on the inside. Let’s include the facility in Simpson Bay in this equation as well for arguments sake.

One could argue that of course life in prison is more dangerous than on the outside, considering the makeup of the prison population. On the other hand, the prison system ought to make sure that inmates are kept safe. Locking people up is one thing, leaving them to their own devices behind bars is obviously a big no-no.

All this sounds perfectly logical, but everybody knows that reality is rather stubborn. It simply does not always comply with how we want life to be.

From the top of our head, we are able to refer to at least three incidents in the prison system. They did not happen yesterday, but some of them came to our attention (again) this week via court rulings and court hearings.

Devon Otto was attacked by two fellow-inmates on July 20 of last year. One of the attackers had an improvised machete that he used to chop up Otto to the point that the man had to be taken to intensive care where he was unapproachable for detectives for several days as a result of his injuries.

Otto is of course not the ideal son-in-law but that is not the point here. Even though he murdered Stanley Gumbs in a case of mistaken identity, even though he made an attempt on the life of Louis Richardson, aka Sticky, and even though Otto did some prison-mischief of his own when he was incarcerated in curacao where he shot two fellow-inmates back in 2011 – even Otto is entitled to be safe in prison. But he was not.

Well, maybe Otto has to take part of the blame for what happened to him. One of his attackers claimed that Otto had sent someone after him “to slap him.” There is then also some truth to the assumption that Otto is a dangerous man and that fooling around with him is a bad idea.

All the same, his attacker was in the possession of an improvised machete. How did he get the materials to make that weapon, and how did he manage to hide it from prison guards? Surely, there is a lack of oversight in play in the prison as well.

Then there is the case of Vesuvius-suspect Andrew Davis, the man who told on Omar Jones and who seems now to be paying the price for it. Davis is detained in Simpson Bay, away from the other members of the Jones gang. Still four fellow-inmates on that location attacked him and stabbed him thirteen times in February of last year.

Davis, who almost died from his stab wounds, says that he has identified his attackers by name, but the prosecutor’s office decided that it had no case. However, questions remain. How did the attackers get their hands on a knife? Where the prison guards asleep at the wheel?

A third case concerns the attack on Omar Nelson – better known under his nickname Chucky – on May 4 of last year. We don’t know what the beef was the attackers had with Chucky, but we did learn in court that the victim was attacked with an improvised machete and an icepick. Chucky sustained serious injuries.

Same question here: how did the attackers get their weapons? Why did the prison management not sense that something was up?

The bottom line seems to be that there is a lack of control in the prison system. That could be due to all kinds of things – from lack of staff, and lack of qualified staff, to bribery and disinterest. We don’t know.

What we do know is that life outside of the prison is a lot safer than on the inside. Some rightwing readers may argue that this is how it ought to be and that inmates must have done something to end up behind bars.

We agree with the second point, but not with the first one. If our prison system turns into a jungle where it is possible to obtain or produce weapons at will, something is very wrong.

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