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Dec 29, 1999

Turmoil at prison in wake of police search

Story PictureIt has not been a good week for Hattieville Prison. On Tuesday morning a twenty-four year old inmate, Gerald Tasher, was stabbed to death by a fellow prisoner… and by nightfall the reaction of the incarcerated population to a subsequent weapons search bordered on a riot. Shortly after nine cameraman Brent Toombs and I reached the scene and while security was still intact, tensions inside were clearly at the boiling point.

One hundred and twenty cells in Tango one, two and three buildings were searched… and despite the presence of the Dragon Unit, over one hundred inmates in Tango two, barricaded themselves inside the building.


Wayne Moody, Director of Programs, D.O.C.

"Over a hundred plus men are in the building. The fact is that if they cooperatively decide that they don’t want anybody in the building they can barricade with their beds because there is only one entrance coming outside of those buildings. And in each of those buildings, Tango one, two and three there are over one hundred and fifty, a hundred and seventy in some cases in one building."


Commotion soon ruled the night and a fight broke out in Tango two. When a few officers ran to the building to diffuse the situation, our source says a struggle ensued between the officers and prisoners. As the disturbance got worse the officers came back out of the building and that’s when the inmates took their beds, mattresses and blankets and blocked the entrance of the building. It is not the first time that prisoners have objected to an exercise.


Jacqueline Woods

"Although it was only two weeks ago that a similar search was conducted, tonight prison officials found a fair amount of edge tools and other dangerous weapons in all the cells that were searched."


Dickie Bradley, Minister Responsible for Prisons had been informed of the situation unfolding inside the institution and had gone to the prison.


Q: "Is there a lapse in security up here at the institution?"


Dickie Bradley, Minister Responsible for Prisons

"I wouldn’t say there is a lapsed. I would say it shows the ingenuity of the prisoners. In fact I actually went into the Tango three building with the search officers this evening and wherever there is an incident we show some degree of force and enforce all the regulations and do a double check. We were looking for a machete that they said was used in the incident."


At nine thirty, the prison wardens and officers who had been on the job since early in the morning were finally allowed to go home. But ten minutes after the bus rolled out of the compound, we observed a ball of smoke coming from inside the prison just outside of Tango two building.


An inmate apparently had gotten hold of a blanket, lit the material and threw it below which started the fire. The fire was extinguished after prison officers threw water on the blaze. Bradley says those responsible for the incident will be punished.


Dickie Bradley

"What will happen of course is tomorrow there will be a couple of investigations into the ring leaders who are behaving like this. They will be punished. In fact we were sharing with other officers this evening that the law which governs the prison, the regulations that governs this part of institution, provides for the whipping of prisoners, that while the courts can’t order that somebody be whipped any more, that was taken off the law book. In a custodial institution in a prison department in this country prisoners who are misbehaving, who have no regard for the regulations and rules who insist on being totally bad even though they are behind here they can be whipped and I think that there are some officers saying that maybe that would cure a couple of them as well."


At the heart of Hattieville’s problems is the severe overcrowding which often sees as many as ten prisoners crammed into a cell designed for two. Bradley says that new construction should begin to relieve the problem but that more resources will have to be allocated if the guard to prisoner ratio is to be increased to an adequate level. In the case of Gerald Tasher’s murder, the police have detained inmates Glenford Gillett and Mark Middleton.

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