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Nov 30, 2007

Former ComPol takes over security at Hattieville Prison

Story PictureFollowing the highly embarrassing arrest of its security chief, the Kolbe Foundation has moved quickly to exercise some damage control. On Thursday, it announced that disgraced employee Oscar Puga had been fired and procedural measures at Hattieville Prison had been tightened. And as News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports, come Monday morning, a familiar face will take over security at the facility.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This morning, the Kolbe Foundation announced that it has named former Commissioner of Police and former Director of Immigration Carmen Zetina as its new Deputy Chief Executive Officer with emphasis on security. According to Chairman John Woods, it was Zetina who approached Kolbe.

John Woods, Chairman, Kolbe Foundation
“And he says, listen, he’s retired and he’d be happy to come down and give us a hand. So we gladly accepted because he has such tremendous training and tremendous experience. Just his mere presence adds credibility instead of us just trying to make things work. His being there I think will be a big advantage and hopefully the Puga affair will not happen again.”

“We have most of the rules are in place and everything, it’s always just the enforcement and I am so, so grateful to have him on along. When he walks by me I feel like standing at attention.”

Hattieville Prison came under national attention last weekend when the former Deputy Chief of Security, Oscar Puga, was arrested after police found him travelling with three prisoners around ten forty-five on Saturday night. Accused murderer Taedron Bennett was driving, Puga was in the front passenger seat, while Bennett’s co-defendant Joseph Kee and Harry Trapp Junior, serving a twenty-five year sentence for manslaughter, were in the back. The three prisoners have since been charged with Escape, while Puga is accused of Wilfully Allowing Prisoners to Escape and Contempt of a Judicial Order.

John Woods
“Puga had a lot of authority and I think a lot of people were very, very scared, so we just have to make sure that they have the freedom to come forward. But we had been suspicious; two weeks before I got some reliable reports that he was doing it, but I didn’t have specifics so we were just hoping to catch him. In a way we were relieved on [Saturday] night that it was all out on the open because obviously it had happened before.”

Earlier this year, Hattieville Prison was awarded for excellence by Prison International, but November has been tough month for the facility. On November first, death row inmate Gilroy “Hootie” Wade was executed near the Maximum Security area by another prisoner using a point thirty-eight revolver and a homemade silencer. Authorities are still trying to figure out how the weapon was smuggled onto the compound. Puga’s arrest over the weekend was black eye the prison didn’t need, but today Woods says the embarrassment should not erase Koble’s work over the past five years.

John Woods
“We have three hundred employees, we have fourteen hundred prisoners. It’s no joke trying to run that thing and because one guy messed us up I think you know, what is the agenda out there? Where was the public outcry before Kolbe took over the prison? Because then it was a hellhole and there was no hope. Now we’ve got guys—it’s so exciting for me to see when somebody all of a sudden realises, maybe I could change, maybe I could turn around.”

“Our recidivism rate which is what they use on the outside, we had a recidivism rate when we took over of over sixty percent, now we are under thirty percent. I mean that’s world class, that’s really good. Our rehab centre is world class; we have a recidivism rate in there of under fifteen percent.”

But without a doubt, the prison will now have to launch an aggressive campaign to rebuild its image in the eyes of the public. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Prisoner Deon Slusher was later arrested for the murder Gilroy Wade. Slusher is already serving a life sentence for the murder of Philip Chin.

Regarding the new deputy C.E.O.’s resume, in April 2002, the veteran cop was appointed Commissioner of Police, taking over the reigns from Hughington Williams. At the end of April 2004, the ComPol resigned to move into Immigration Department to serve as Director. But in October 2006, an embattled Zetina stepped down from the post. Among the problems encountered on his watch, were two unsolved thefts: first of two hundred passports from his Belmopan headquarters and a second incident involving an additional hundred passports. Zetina also came under fire when a less-than-transparent scheme to sell visas to so-called investors from mainland China was revealed to the public. The new Deputy Chief Executive Officer will officially assume his new post on Monday morning.

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