Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Still looming

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Two years after a “party incident” some prison officers have been reminded of possible punishment.

However, their representative, Unity Workers Union (UWU) general secretary Caswell Franklyn, has accused the Barbados Prison Service of resurrecting a “dead” issue while Superintendent of Prisons Decarlo Payne maintained that the investigation into the prison officers partying at a private fete which former Dodds inmates attended had been continuing. 

Franklyn said: “My understanding is that it was a party that people bought tickets for, and this matter occurred two years ago. These people continued to work every working day unless they were on vacation or sick leave. 

“If it was serious, according to the Public Service Act, the superintendent should have suspended them pending the outcome of any disciplinary matter.

“You cannot say ‘you did something for which you should be tried, and possibly dismissed’, but you allow them to work for two years doing the same job in the same place and now want to bring charges two years down the road. This is madness.” 

He believed that the matter was being brought back up because some prison officers had been “standing” up and refusing to work 12-hour shifts. 

“Now that they refuse to work four hours overtime, they are going back into history to find charges to bring against them.

“This matter was dead but [they] are looking for issues because these officers are saying ‘I won’t work 12 hours every day anymore’. It is taxing,” Franklyn added. 

After attending a party in late June 2022, some officers were sent a letter by the superintendent asking them to explain why they were in the company of former inmates. 

The letter highlighted Section 142 of the Prison Act which states: “A prison officer shall not knowingly communicate or associate with an ex-prisoner or with friends and relatives of a prisoner or ex-prisoner, except with the permission of the officer-in-charge.”

Caswell, however, questioned the extent of the law considering Barbados’ small population.

“If I get on a bus and I see an ex-convict, am I supposed to get off?” he asked while promising to defend his members. 

“They sent them a letter telling them they were suspended pending these cases for six months. They will bring charges and when the charges come I will respond to the charges when the time comes. They will be defended to the best of my ability,” Franklyn added. 

When contacted Payne explained why it had taken this long since the start of the investigation in July 2022.

“The management of the Barbados Prison Service is cognisant of due process and natural justice and, as such, always endeavours to follow those guiding principles,” he said.

He recalled: “A disciplinary investigation was initiated 21 months ago, that investigation was completed in around November 2022 and a report was submitted externally. This is now the formal disciplinary hearing before the Protective Services Commission,” Payne said.

He said the matter was out of their hands and before the commission.

However, he added that they had to take possible breaches seriously because national security was at stake, “The Barbados Prison Service is one of the cogs in the National Security framework as such, any alleged breaches of the Prisons Act that can have an implication on national security has to be treated seriously. 

“Those policies are there and enshrined in law and we always enforce and reinforce them during recruiting and the annual efficiency testing and training which is mandated by law,” he said.

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