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“BEYOND BELIEF”

Trinidad Express / THE Prison Service has lashed out at TV6’s Beyond the Tape co-host Inspector Roger Alexander over what it has labelled as “reckless, irresponsible, ill-informed, ill-intentioned and malicious allegations and insinuations” which were allegedly made by him against the Prison Service during the programme last Friday.

In a media release which was issued on Saturday, the prison service stated that in its opinion, Alexander, by way of his “senseless utterances” sought to “sensationalize a very serious issue in order to improve his ratings and damage the image of the prison service.” The statements made by Alexander was with regard to a murder accused who has been in prison custody since 2009 awaiting trial, but who was spotted conducting business at a bank in South Trinidad, having been brought there by prison officials.

While the prison service confirmed that the inmate was in fact at the bank conducting business, it condemned and criticized the manner in which Alexander brought the information into the public domain and further stated that such arrangements with that particular inmate was not unique.

“We wish to advise Mr. Alexander that while he may have access to air time on a nationally televised programme and the enshrined right to freedom of speech, thought and the expression of those thoughts, he also has a moral and ethical responsibility as a representative of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and a media practitioner to honesty, integrity, professionalism, truth and fairness in the content of his programming; all of which eluded him in his presentation yesterday (Friday) as he sought to sensationalize a very serious issue in order to improve his ratings and damage the image of the Prison Service.

“His senseless utterances and ramblings on the show only displayed an ignorance of the facts, and his lack of appreciation and understanding for the operations of the Prison Service and our mandate to build a prison system that does not weigh offenders down so heavily that they cannot achieve their full potential,” the release stated.

The release stated that the inmate, who has been in custody since January 4, 2009, charged with the murder of his wife was granted approval after careful assessment was done, to go to Republic Bank in San Fernando to sign over his bank account into the care of his sister. This was so given that while in custody, his driver’s permit, national identification card and bank card expired which made funding inaccessible and difficult for the care of his young son and legal fees for his defence.

It went on to state that after the assessment, it was found that the inmate posed no threats to society by being at the bank.

“His visit to the bank yesterday (Friday) was planned and executed by the Prisons Welfare Department in conjunction with our operations department and bank security. The inmate was accompanied by a welfare officer and escorted by covertly armed members of staff in civilian wear. Being a remanded prisoner he was also in civilian wear.

“In our efforts to eliminate the threat of fear, anxiety and intimidation to members of the public and other customers at the bank the inmate was allowed to enter the bank in a closely supervised and monitored operation without handcuffs,” the release stated.

Alexander had stated that a former prisoner who was also at the bank spotted the inmate and proceeded to take photographs of the prison vehicle which had brought the murder accused to the establishment. However, this was denied by the service. Instead, it stated that it was the inmate’s father-in-law who spotted him and began taking the photographs. The transaction it said, was completed in the shortest possible time and the inmate was returned to the Maximum Security Prison.

“These types of arrangements are not unique to this particular inmate. As the country embraces the restorative philosophy and moves aggressively to prepare offenders for re-entry into society, inmates are granted approval on a regular basis to attend to a host of issues, including the renewal of passports, drivers permits, national identification cards, bank cards, faith based events, community outreach programmes, mentoring initiatives, sport related training, educational and correctional programmes and the viewing of the remains of deceased relatives at funeral homes,” stated the release.

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