By KYLE WALKINE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HER Majesty’s Prisons Superintendent Patrick Wright said yesterday he is concerned by the number of contraband cell phones that are found in the prison and in the possession of inmates.
According to Supt Wright, prison officials confiscated more than 50 cell phones from inmates last year – and that is just the ones they found.
“Cell phones are a concern and a reality for us,” Supt Wright told The Tribune.
“I’m always concerned as to the amount of cell phones in the hands of our inmates. A cell phone in the hand of an inmate is an illegal device. This not only happens in our prison in the Bahamas, but worldwide. Cell phones and trafficking are the most modern problems you find in prisons nowadays. The Bahamas is no different.”
The Tribune has received numerous reports from people who claim they were contacted by inmates requesting that they pass a message on to a relative or have them return a call.
As to how those cell phones end up in the prison, Supt Wright said he is not sure, but stressed that officials are trying to find out.
He said searches are carried out regularly and when illegal cell phones are found the inmate in question is punished.
However, he added that the punishments sometimes have little effect.
“When the inmates are found with them, they are brought before our tribunal and we have a number of ways that we can treat it,” he said. “We can take away their visits for a period of time and not allow them to purchase in the commissary. Based on a maximum security perspective, with almost four people in a cell, there’s little you can do to try and punish them. If you have four persons in a cell and you take away the privilege of another, obviously because they are buddies the other will look out for him. So sometimes the punishments have no effect. That’s one of our challenges and we’re working on them.”
As for the scrambler system that was installed months ago to destroy cell phone signals in the prison, Superintendent Wright said the equipment is working fine.
A few months ago, residents in the area complained that the scrambler was interrupting their cell phone service, making it impossible for them to send and receive calls.
The prison chief said the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has since corrected the problem.
Supt Wright said there were nearly 1,450 people in prison as of yesterday morning.