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Criminal minds

Margaret Wise
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

A "GOOD percentage" of criminal activities are planned and executed using mobile phones from inside rolls of razor-wire fence, and from behind a network of metal doors.

Commissioner Fiji Corrections Service Francis Kean said the powerful influence of seasoned and hardened inmates could not be understated, adding that it was for this very reason that mobile phones were banned.

Speaking on the issue of contraband goods, in particular the headache of dealing with smuggled phones and drugs, he said phones posed a huge challenge for the corrections service.

"It is a huge threat because even though we confiscate them, they still manage to hide them and carry out their illegal business from the inside," he said.

He cited a case where a notorious inmate worked with the wife of another prisoner to extort money from the public.

"The prisoner's wife was on the outside and he conned people from inside using the phone and then directed her on what to do."

He said phones were crucial to organised crime and prisoners took great risks to secure the gadget.

Mr Kean said some inmates intimidated younger prisoners, forcing them to become carriers while others preyed on vulnerable prison officers.

"We stopped the use of mobile phones because a good percentage of criminal activities that happened outside were planned on the inside, some ordered from the inside.

"It's a big problem. In one sweep, we had one inmate who had three phones stored in a body cavity.

"Another died because the phone stored in a body cavity had a leaking battery.

"Sadly, a few had to be taken to hospital for it to be discharged.

"The prisoners get it from visitors, but one of the things we have also discovered from our own intelligence work is that the younger prisoners are often intimidated to be carriers, to convey the contraband for older and more seasoned prisoners.

"They are threatened, 'if you don't do it, you know what's going to happen to you inside'.

"So it's a major challenge for us and I salute the men and women of our institutions who are working tirelessly and honestly.

"But, in saying that, we also had issues of collusion where some of our staff were blinded by greed and easily tempted to collude with inmates, not realising the consequences that would come.

"Unfortunately, some have left through the investigations we have conducted. It's sad to see them leave under such circumstances but ultimately we have to maintain discipline and to ensure security and safety of those under our care, but also for our men and women.

"I can't put a figure to the number of intercepts but it is a significant threat."

Mr Kean said the corrections service hoped to address the issue by using technology and improving the system's capabilities.

"I have to thank Government for their support in these efforts. We have some scanners that were introduced last year and we want to improve on their capabilities.

"At the moment we have portable ones, we are looking at more robust and fixed ones that not only inmates go through but also our staff, just like they do at the airports

"That's a short to medium plan for us."

Mr Kean said some inmates intimidated younger prisoners, forcing them to become carriers while others preyed on vulnerable prison officers.

"We stopped the use of mobile phones because a good percentage of criminal activities that happened outside were planned on the inside, some ordered from the inside.

"It's a big problem. In one sweep, we had one inmate who had three phones stored in a body cavity.

"Another died because the phone stored in a body cavity had a leaking battery.

"Sadly, a few had to be taken to hospital for it to be discharged.

"The prisoners get it from visitors, but one of the things we have also discovered from our own intelligence work is that the younger prisoners are often intimidated to be carriers, to convey the contraband for older and more seasoned prisoners.

"They are threatened, 'if you don't do it, you know what's going to happen to you inside'.

"So it's a major challenge for us and I salute the men and women of our institutions who are working tirelessly and honestly.

"But, in saying that, we also had issues of collusion where some of our staff were blinded by greed and easily tempted to collude with inmates, not realising the consequences that would come.

"Unfortunately, some have left through the investigations we have conducted. It's sad to see them leave under such circumstances but ultimately we have to maintain discipline and to ensure security and safety of those under our care, but also for our men and women.

"I can't put a figure to the number of intercepts but it is a significant threat."

Mr Kean said the corrections service hoped to address the issue by using technology and improving the system's capabilities.








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