The Commissioner of Prisons William Alexander has described criticism of prison officers as "unprofessional, insensitive and disrespectful".
The Commissioner says while there are some rogue members of the service, the vast majority are hard-working and risk their lives to serve the country.
Alexander issued the following statement today:
"The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, as an arm of the Criminal Justice System is committed to the protection of society and crime prevention.
However, we are an imperfect establishment in an imperfect society. As a public entity, we come under close and gross scrutiny from an unknowing public.
Challenges are numerous and resources are constrained, yet we struggle bravely because of the oath we have taken to protect society.
The job of a Prisons Officer is one of high risk. We interact daily with the lawless and unruly that we are mandated to hold and treat. We work and operate under the same conditions that they are housed in.
Our lives are threatened constantly and yet we choose to perform our duties without fear or favor, ensuring our charges’ needs are met, despite the challenges.
The recent shooting death of Prisons Officer I, Richard Sandy has sparked heavy and unjust criticism from certain quarters of society.
Whilst we were mourning the sixteenth work related death since 2001, of yet another colleague, who was known to be a solid, humble and fearless officer, as well as a caring and supportive father, and trying to come to terms with his death, the Prison Service was condemned and labelled as corrupt.
This condemnation is deemed as unprofessional, insensitive and disrespectful. It was uttered without thought or concern of its interpretation by the general public, especially for Officer Sandy.
Whilst I do not dispute the fact, and never have, that there are rogue elements within the Prison Service, I would like to categorically state that they are in the absolute minority.
There is a process by which officers caught engaging in corrupt practices are treated, but it is a lengthy one, made quite difficult by the Justice System.
The conviction rate is minute for various reasons and matters are stalled for years and eventually some are dismissed. Relative to the corrupt officers active in the Prison Service, who undo the good and lawful practices of their brother officers and bring shame, disrepute and untold risks unto the Prison Service, please be assured that the Prisons Administration is working assiduously to detect and apprehend same.
To the vast majority of my Prisons Officers who are hard-working, committed, steadfast and purpose-driven, I publicly commend you as you go beyond the scope of your duties to get the job done.
I am appealing to you that you should not let criticism by the uninformed hinder you from performing your duties. Most of our work is performed behind the walls of the prison. Let us remember that the general public has little knowledge of what we do.
Despite all our publicized efforts at positive portrayals, our shortcomings will always be highly emphasized.
The real reward for the incomparable, herculean tasks that you so unselfishly perform each day, so as to transform the criminal nature of our charges will be appropriately acknowledged by the Divine Master.
Rest assured that I, as Commissioner of Prisons, will always defend those committed, honest, hard-working and God-fearing Prisons Officers, who, despite tremendous risks and several societal ills, persevere in their work which redounds to public stability and safety.
God is on our side."