THERE are 17 gangs operating within the Trinidad and Tobago prison system.
This was revealed by Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan during a meeting of a Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Monday.
He said, “When an individual is arrested from a gang outside, they come into the prison and gravitate towards remnants of the gang within the prison so they are not joining a gang, but are rejoining people they are familiar with.”
Pulchan noted that there were 3,750 prisoners in the system with 1,861 on remand and 200 remand inmates being members of gangs.
He said drones were also found dropping contraband within the compound of the prison and a hole in a fence also allows for illegal items to come into the prison.
Pulchan said that heads of gangs provide their members with visit bags to run errands.
He explained, “When an inmate gets a visit from his family they normally give him a visit bag with some stuff that will last him for a period of time.
“Those who can’t afford to come and visit their relatives in the prisons, these are the vulnerable inmates who are proned to be captured in that niche of needs and some gang members ensure that they do get that visit bag.
“So they are providing the basic amenities like a soft drink, a biscuit, a bar of soap.”
Pulchan said that the visit bag may also contain peanuts, a pack of mango and sweetbread.
And he agreed with committee chairman Fitzgerald Hinds that “for some preserved mango, some nuts and a sweet drink, a man can become a member of gang.”
The prisons commissioner said the system was driven by commerce where a pack of cigarettes that normally retails for $25 to $30 could be sold for as much as $500 within the prison walls.
He said within the last year, six prison officers were held for trying to traffic contraband within the prisons.
Pulchan said one officer was killed after he took away a cellphone that was being trafficked within the prison system.
He said, “We have electronic scanning. We have X-ray scanning where we can see through clothing. If we have to rub down anybody we can do so.”