In the midst of concern over the coronavirus pandemic in Jamaica, a popular recording dance hall reggae artiste, Adidja ‘ Vybz Kartel’ Palmer, who is serving a life sentence for murder, at a maximum-security prison facility in Kingston Jamaica, decided to go live streaming on the social media platform Instagram.
A seemingly bewildered prison authority, was subsequently informed of the activity by an external source and a search of Vybz Kartel’s cell reportedly uncovered cell phones and other contraband. This find, of course, was of no surprise, except maybe to the nincompoop and inefficient prison warders in charge of the facility, and raises serious concern about the security of the prisons in Jamaica, as this was not an isolated case.
It has long been rumored or suspected that the artist has been recording and sending out his voice recordings to be formatted and released into music. This was evidenced by the fact that the music that was being released by the artiste management team, was current, topical and quite trendy, which, obviously could not have been recorded prior to the entertainer’s incarceration, because the variables which I mentioned, did not exist. Which brings me to the obvious questions: did the authorities know or have knowledge, or suspected that Kartel had a smartphone, and if they did, why something wasn’t done about it.
The issue is of major concern, not just for this particular case, but for the potential harm it can do to an already overwhelmed and under-resourced justice system, which for many Jamaicans is ineffective, because of the protracted delays in court cases, particularly murder cases, to be heard. Additionally, the lack of a reliable witness protection program and the mistrust of the police, among others, also exacerbate an already porous system. Indeed, the knowledge of a convicted prisoner being in possession of a communication device that has the potential to facilitate a demand by a criminal with his cronies on the street, is frightening and should not be taken lightly.
In a broader context, families and some human rights proponents might want to justify the importance of a device like a cell phone in prison and point out the recent revelation of an outbreak of scabies at the Tamarind Farm Correctional facility, in St. Catherine, where prisoners, many of whom were held under the present State of Emergency (S.O.E), imposed by the Jamaican Government, as a mechanism to suppress the high murder rate, highlighted their plight and it was due to the release of the recordings in the public space, the matter was addressed expeditiously.
This, of course, was not an isolated case, in fact, there has been other alleged human rights abuse recorded by prisoners at a high-security penal institution in the country that was sent out to media houses by prisoners, which were also highlighted and subsequently addressed because of the publicity it generated.
However, despite these seemingly justified and rational reasons for wanting to ensure equity and observance of the fundamental human rights of prisoners in custody, we cannot sidestep the fact that in a country that has had an astronomical murder statistics and a police force that is seemingly overwhelmed and under-resourced, the police is now being confronted with the introduction of another variable, that is defeating the small gains in controlling crime, the cell phone in prison. With this reality, no authoritative body including government, would embrace any initiative that would make cell phones available to inmates. So why is it being allowed to fester in penal institutions? Evidently, the cell phone did not find its way into the cells by themselves someone must have smuggled it in, and that someone must have been a prison official.
We cannot lose site of the fact that there are corrupt individuals in the prison system who might see this as an opportunity to make money and at the same time is putting the nation at risk.
Vybz Kartel is highly influential and his influential tentacles extend to the criminal underworld, many of whom idolized him and are heavily influenced by his music. Kartel’s case is being reviewed and he is awaiting an appeal. A process that can dictate that the case should be retried. Several witnesses, including police, were involved in the case.
A prisoner having such immense influence, can use that influence to liquidate and dispose of the witness in his case. I have no evidence to suggest that Vybz Kartel is contemplating any such action. What I am suggesting is the probability of such action by an inmate who has a cell phone at his disposal.
It is of utmost importance that the authorities act expeditiously, to eliminate these corrupt individuals from the system that is facilitating access to inmates, only then will they be able to prevent further breaches of this nature.
Failing to do so, perhaps the death of one of their own might help expedite a spurred action. I hope it does not have to come that.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect those of the owner/s/publisher/s of chat-a-box.com
Mister Errol McLeish may be reached @ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or Twitter :@ Errol McLeish @ermarlii16