Authorities to clamp down on illegal devices in prisons

December 21, 2021

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Matthew Samuda, says the latest amendments to the Corrections Act will help to address the rapid technological advancements, particularly in the area of communications, which pose a challenge for the country's correctional institutions.

"There has been an increase in the use of telecommunication devices by inmates to maintain contact with criminal networks outside of the confines of correctional institutions. As we expound on the utilisation of telecommunication devices by inmates, I want to particularly highlight that through the use of cellular telephones and electronic communication devices, incarcerated violence producers -- some of whom are themselves gang leaders -- have been or are able to directly and/or indirectly influence criminal gangs and drug activities," Samuda said. He was speaking in the Senate last Friday.

Further, he said, inmates use the prohibited instruments to give orders for contract killings or continue gang feuds. These activities worsen the level of crime the country grapples with yearly.

As at December 18, the country recorded 1,414 murders, a 10 per cent increase with the corresponding period.

The legislation before Parliament aims to introduce the following offences: having access to, use of, or possession of an electronic communication device or computer in a correctional institution; tampering with any electronic communication device or computer by an inmate; and an inmate transmitting, or causing to be transmitted, without authorisation, any data, using an electronic communication device or computer.

The senator cautioned that it would not be necessary for regulations to be drafted or amended based on the Bill that was passed last Friday.

He, however, warned that persons who are facilitating the commission of offences by providing devices for inmates, face a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment and hefty fines.

Since the start of the year, the Department of Correctional Services has seized 2,300 cellular phones from penal institutions. Among the list of prohibited devices include sound recorders, which incarcerated deejays have resorted to in the production of their tunes behind bars.

"The use of an electronic device has always required permission from the superintendent of the facility. If someone is caught with a device without permission they will face the penalties prescribed in law," said Samuda.

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