The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service is an arm of the Criminal Justice System and a Division of the Ministry of National Security. It currently has in its employ just over three thousand officers and civilian workers, who perform a range of tasks related to the fulfillment of its mandate of holding and treating of incarcerated persons. The Prison Service is a unique entity, in that it is neither fully military, nor civilian in its operations as it straddles both spheres in the course of its operations.
- It has a ranking structure which is similar to the military, in that, its senior officers are considered to be in the First Division; roughly equal to that of the Commissioned Officers of the Military. The ranks which make up this division start at Assistant Superintendent of Prisons and go all the way up to Commissioner of Prisons. The Second Division officers are all the officers below this rank; roughly equal to the Other Ranks of the Military. Like the military, orders are given by senior staff and expected to be followed by junior staff.
- The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service is currently headed by the Commissioner of Prisons (Ag.) Mr. Dennis Pulchan with assistance from his three Deputy Commissioners. The Commissioner is answerable to the Minister of National Security via the Inspector of Prisons. Each of the Deputy Commissioners is responsible for overseeing one of three streams under which over thirty five other departments and units fall, with a few exceptions.
- These three streams are Administration, Operations and Programmes. As the names suggest, Administration takes care of the Administrative functions, operations, includes security and other operational functions, while programmes department is geared specifically to design and provide programmes and industries in which offenders can participate, with a view towards rehabilitation. This three streamed approach was adopted in 2016 to meet with the challenges of a burgeoning remanded inmate population and the overall welfare of the Service’s efficiency.
- Each Station is unique in terms of physical structure and geographic locations, which challenges the ability of the Prison Service to adequately treat with all issues that may arise. The Carrera Island Convict Prison was built in 1877 and still functions today, despite its increasingly dilapidated condition. The Port of Spain Prison for example is now situation in the heart of the bustling capital city. The Golden Grove Prison Complex, which includes Women’s Prison, Golden Grove Convict Prison and the Remand Prison Facility, is now surrounded by residential communities.
- The Mission of the Prison Service is as follows, “The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service as an arm of the Criminal Justice system is committed to protecting society and crime prevention by facilitating opportunities for habilitation/rehabilitation for offenders while maintaining control under safe, secure and humane conditions.”
- The Vision of the Prison Service is, “To be a more efficient and effective Service committed to protecting society, adhering to the dictates of the court and to reduce offending.”
- Its Strategic Objectives are:
- Protect – To protect the public and aid in crime prevention
- Correct – Improve educational, work and social life skills of offenders
- Relate – Improve community relations
- Reintegrate – Promote law-abiding behaviour in custody and after release
- Restore – To reduce crime by addressing offending behaviour
- The philosophy of the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service is currently one of Restorative Justice which was introduced in 2002. The Prison Service also demonstrates its commitment to this ideal, that it has added the CORRECT priority to it strategic objectives.
- The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service marks one hundred and eighty years of its existence as the West Indian Prison Act or the Prison Service Act was passed in 1838. This is also the year in which classification of prisoners became mandatory, which was a great stride in the commonwealth in the treatment of prisoners. The origins of the Prison Service are found in the British Borstal and Correctional Systems.