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Crackdown soon on communication from prisoners, says Chang


HIGH-PROFILE prisoners who, from time to time, are fingered in murders and other questionable activities outside prison walls, are about to have their privileges severely cut, according to Dr Horace Chang.

The national security minister was responding to queries posed to him by this newspaper recently regarding an imprisoned don accused of terrorising communities in the Red Hills Road area of St Andrew.

Fearful residents who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on several different occasions said that a number of individuals have been displaced because of threats to their lives from thugs acting on the orders of the incarcerated man who has been described as “a plague to the community”.

The imprisoned man, the Observer was told, extorts residents through his network of relatives. Those who resist are placed on a ‘list’ and marked for death. So fierce is he, they allege, that even while being arrested he had told police officers that many more would die.

Speaking with the Observer last Friday, Dr Chang said while he did not know the specifics of the Red Hills Road situation, changes were being made across the prison system which will effectively cramp the efforts of inmates to communicate with their cronies on the outside.

“The high-value criminals we have will pretty soon be in a situation where they can’t communicate; that’s a priority,” he said.

Chang was, however, reluctant to provide further information as to how exactly this would be achieved.

“We are taking steps to deal with the situation. I won’t give you the details just yet,” he said.

In the meantime, a number of questions are left to be answered as to whether the latest “steps” being taken to deal with the situation will be any more effective than those taken over the years.

Successive governments have, over the years, ploughed resources into installing cellular phone signal jammers at the Horizon and Tower Street prison facilities, only for them to fall into disrepair. Replacement wireless jammer units later procured were reportedly sabotaged by unscrupulous people employed to the prisons in their bid to continue smuggling cellphones to prisoners, a lucrative side job.

Last year an ex-inmate who spent 21 years in prison for murder told the Observer of meeting an 11-year-old girl in a chat room while in prison, and secretly mentoring the child from his cellular phone. According to that individual, he acquired the phone after paying a warder to sneak the device into the facility.

“The Government spend millions of dollars on jammers to jam the cellphones in the prison. That’s not going to stop the inmates from using their phones. It might slow down one network but it won’t slow down the other network, so most of the inmates just use that network,” the ex-inmate said.

According to him, the prohibition of cellular phones only adds to the level of corruption inside the prison. He said the Government should instead normalise cellphone use in prisons by putting mechanisms in place to have the calls monitored.

“Cellphone use inna prison and them cannot stop it. The Government needs to stop kicking against the pricks and work with one of the cable network. Employ about 10 or 15 other persons in the prison, and let the inmates have a phone with a number work through the system where they can monitor the calls,” he proposed.

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