POA warn of impending anarchy at Westgate
Armed with photographs of illegal drugs, contraband, cash and cellphones, Prison Officers Association president Craig Clarke warned today it's just a matter of time before there is all-out anarchy at Bermuda's maximum security prison.
Flanked by an estimated 100 POA members who gathered at the Devonshire Rec, Mr Clarke said the increasing young inmate population at Westgate Correctional Facility have a “totally different mentality from 20 years ago”.
“The majority of these inmates come into the system with some form of gang affiliations, it is becoming increasingly alarming to maintain this inmate population in a sterile, safe environment. We have officers facing dangerous situations daily to try to curtail the constant threats that seem to be breaching our perimeters.”
Mr Clarke said: “We are finding more weapons, seizing more drugs and unauthorised items from within our perimeter walls, these seizures of unauthorised articles lead the POA to fear for the health and safety of our officers as well as those who are in our custody.”
The POA Chairman added: “The days of continuing to maintain the veil of secrecy of what our officers are faced with must end, the POA feels that not enough is being done to make our prison system a safer place.”
He accused Government of “not listening”, with a “total disregard” for the POA's concerns. “It is time for the politics, the sound bites, the rhetoric and the misinformation to stop, one cannot play politics with officers and inmates' lives,” said Mr Clarke.
“The Government must begin to take the requests of the POA more seriously or they will have to explain to the general public why the prison system erupted into full-scale anarchy. Bermuda be under no illusion that this cannot happen, we still have the chance to fix the problem if people will engage and listen to the men and women who make up the Bermuda Department of Corrections.”
At the end of his statement, the POA displayed photographs on a large screen, displaying items seized within the confines of the prison. The photos included pictures of shanks, scissors, marijuana and cell phones, in addition to tobacco, and cash.
During a brief question and answer period Mr Clarke said he has even been accused by senior Government officials of exaggerating the situation at Westgate. “This Government has lost touch completely,” he said. “It's time for Government to wake up, pay attention and see the sign of the times because we keep living in this country as if everything is okay.
“At the end of the day they need to take the blinders off and get serious about prison reform, and until they have the will to do it we're going to continue to fight this battle.
“They are not going to face the reality of where Bermuda is, and when they begin to face reality then Bermuda will be a better place to live in. It may be time for the Commissioner of Prisons to go look for greener pastures or go somewhere, he may not be the right man to lead the Bermuda Department of Corrections, but that's my opinion.”
* For more pictures of items seized at Westgate click