Senior Prison Officer Vince Gumbs (L) and Police Constable Cleavon Chumney

By LR Liburd

The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer

Two security officers recently charge for allegedly smuggling contraband items into Her Majesty’s Prison were each placed on $10,000 bail and are scheduled to reappear in one of the City’s Magistrate Courts on Monday (Nov. 7).

A Senior Prison Officer, Sergeant Vince Gumbs of Cayon, was on Thursday (Sept. 29) taken into police custody after he was allegedly caught smuggling a quantity of marijuana, tobacco, lighters, alcohol, a cellular phone and a charger.

On the following day, he was charged with possession of cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to supply, unlawfully conveying cannabis to Her Majesty’s Prison, unlawfully conveying tobacco and spirituous liquor to Her Majesty’s Prison, and unlawfully conveying other contraband (to wit a cellular phone and charger) to Her Majesty’s Prison.

The Observer learnt that Gumbs had allegedly committed the offences on two different occasions. The first was on Friday (Sept. 23) when he was intercepted in an attempt to smuggle a cellular phone and a charger to an inmate of the correctional facility, while the other offences were allegedly committed in the evening of Thursday (Sept. 29).

Gumbs subsequently appeared before a City Magistrate and was placed on $10,000 bail. He has to appear in court on Monday (Nov. 7) to answer to the five charges.

In a police communiqué, Superintendent of Prisons Junie Hodge is quoted as saying: “We will remain vigilant in our efforts to rid our institution of contraband. We did a comprehensive search on September 20 and found a number of items. Two nights ago, we had an attempted breach of our security which was discovered in progress and resulted in the arrest of the individual responsible.”

Speaking to Thursday night’s find, Superintendent Hodge said: “The find was most disheartening knowing that a Prison Officer was responsible. I have told my officers, we (myself and the leadership) expect them to have integrity, to do the right thing every time, and doing that we will support them. Likewise, we have told them they will be held accountable for their actions.”

Two days before the Senior Prison Officer was busted, a member of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force was allegedly caught throwing a quantity of marijuana and lighters into the prison compound from an area within the Police Headquarters, which is adjacent to HMP.

Police Constable Cleavon Chumney, a resident of East Basseterre and who is said to operates a small business establishment on Wellington Road, was arrested on Tuesday evening (Sept. 27) and criminally charged with possession of cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to supply, unlawfully conveying cannabis to Her Majesty’s Prison, unlawfully conveying tobacco to Her Majesty’s Prison, and unlawfully conveying five lighters to Her Majesty’s Prison.

He was also charged by the Police Force with discreditable conduct and was suspended with immediate effect until the outcome of the charges.

He too has to answer to his charges on Friday (Oct. 7).

Commenting on the matter, a police communiqué quoted Commissioner of Police Ian Queeley as saying: “I echo what I have previously said…as upholders of the law, we expect our officers to maintain the highest standards of integrity. We will not condone wrong doing and everyone is responsible for their actions and will be held accountable. Officers who engage in corrupt practices will face the consequences as prescribed by law. The investigations are completed and the appropriate actions have been taken.”

Sources close to the police told The Observer that an Inspector had seen when Chumney was throwing the contraband items over the wall that separates the prison from the Police Headquarters and he fired two warning shots. However, no one was injured.

This media house spoke to a number of concerned citizens, who, on condition of anonymity, all concluded that there are more questions than answers to not only the recent finds, but also to those in the past.

“Firstly, when I heard that the prison was not open to the public for 21 days earlier this year and a search revealed a find of more than 300 contraband items including marijuana, cell phones and alcohol, I told my friends that that Prison Officers were involved. Today my words have come to pass and I strongly believe there are more officers to be caught. I therefore must commend the Superintendent of Prisons for a job well done. Keep up the good works,” one individual said.

Another individual claimed that many officers have caused the Police Force to be stigmatised.

“On many occasions officers were accused of passing vital information to criminals. That is one of the reasons why people are afraid to provide the police with information when they witness a crime, especially when it involves gangs.”

A third one lamented: “Just when the Police Force is making progress in mending broken fences between its members and the public, one of their own had to be involved in criminal activity. I strongly believe that there was one or more Prison Officers with whom he was in league. Because, if he had indeed thrown the weed, tobacco and lighters over the wall, someone had to know what time it was to be done and which part of the prison yard they could retrieve the items and have them stashed. No prisoner is allowed out of their cell at night.”