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Inmate threatens woman prison officer with a shank

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Prison officers are concerned for their safety after a female officer was threatened by an inmate armed with a homemade shank at Westgate Correctional Facility - and a random search has turned up a slew of other weapons inside the prison.

The search was conducted last Wednesday. Items seized included four cellphones, two brand new industrial ice-picks, one homemade ice-pick, eight homemade shanks and a black tar-like substance.

When contacted by

The Royal Gazette, Prisons Commissioner Lt Col Edward Lamb said: “The threat against the officer situation was well-handled by officers, the matter was defused quite quickly and charges are pending against the inmate in question.”

The search was part of an ongoing practice to interdict and detect contraband. “A variety of articles were found and confiscated, subsequent to which, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken.”

This follows a report carried in

The Royal Gazette on Saturday when the head of the Prison Officers Association said “Westgate is a time bomb waiting to explode.”

Commenting on the steady rate of unauthorised packages hurled onto prison grounds, Craig Clarke said: “The problem is getting worse and the main concern is the health and safety of our officers.

“Once upon a time it was just drugs, now they're sending weapons with the marijuana, cocaine and heroin.”

But One Bermuda Alliance MP Trevor Moniz, the Shadow Minister of Justice said it merely confirms what he has known all along. He recalled just last year when a prison officer was found with drugs in his shoes and drugs found in a prison cell as well.

“I said then this is just the tip of the iceberg, I think the Commissioner has lost track of the fact that this is meant to be a maximum-security prison and it's being run like a boys' club.

“It's getting out of line, you've got all sorts of things which you're not meant to have in a high security prison and nothing is being done about it.

“The officers are justified to have concerns for their safety. This gang situation is going to become like a snowball as we get more convictions of the serious players in the gangs, we're going to get more of these serious guys in the prison.

“You're going to have to adapt to that by having high security measures which they just don't seem to be doing and they don't seem to have any idea what they are.

“Whenever I hear a public utterance from the Commissioner it's about how sorry he feels for the boys in the prison, it's not about his job which is running a high security prison. The first thing I would do is have HM's Prison Inspectorate come and give us a formal review.

“Just like they do reviews of the police and the Regiment, we need a review of the prison service, which the Minister had promised, the Government has agreed to and is meant to have taken place.

“I want to know what happened, I'm deeply disturbed that that hasn't taken place. We have not addressed the issues and unfortunately the Commissioner doesn't seem to have the will to engage with the problems that exist within the prison.

“When we had the joint select committee on guns and violent crime the Commissioner made oral submissions at a public hearing. All he really burbled on about was how much help these individuals needed.

“Cellphones and drugs have been turning up for years, and yes there are officers taking some of it in. The one officer found with drugs is not a one-off case, where there is smoke there's fire.

“There are bad officers in there and you need tackle the problem and weed them out, you've got to have higher security all the way around.”

As for the unauthorised packages being hurled over the fence Mr Moniz said: “One of the tricks they use is to inject things into tennis balls and throw them over or even hit them over the fence with tennis rackets. They have all sorts of tricks but nothing seems to be done about it.

And then he said there's the parole board. “It has been useless in terms of letting out people who don't deserve to be out of parole. The Director of Public Prosecutions has complained, the Commissioner of Police has complained all of these people are complaining.

“Ashfield DeVent was appointed as chairman, he's street smart and I think that's a good appointment but some of the people on that board need to wake up. Once you get an institution that gets into bad habits, you've got get somebody new to come in and say this is going to change.

“We need firm statements from the Government undertaking to get on with this review immediately. There prison officers are on the frontline and there's a big problem up there. It's a powder keg and if you don't do something it's going to get out of hand pretty quickly.

“We have four hours on the Attorney General's budget which includes prisons, I plan to address all of this in the House of Assembly on Friday.”

Westgate Correctional Facility: A woman prison officer was threatened by an inmate with a homemade weapon. A search has uncovered many other weapons within the prison.
The sun begins to set on the Westgate Correctional facility barb wire fence Monday (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 06, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated March 06, 2012 at 8:53 am)

Inmate threatens woman prison officer with a shank

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