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Plans for cable tv in TT prison

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Plans for cable tv in TT prison

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Plans are under way to install cable television at the multi-million-dollar Santa Rosa prison so inmates will have the luxury of watching a variety of channels while serving time for their crimes.
Commissioner of Prisons Martin Martinez confirmed yesterday that he intends to install cable TV at the prison.
He said this is necessary “if we are talking about reform and rehabilitation”.
“That is the plan, we already have televisions in all our prisons, Port of Spain, Carrera… in the new facility, it will be no different,” said Martinez.
At the other prisons, he said, only local programming is available to the prisoners, but in the Santa Rosa prison this will be upgraded.
Asked if cable-ready televisions will be placed in the cells, Martinez explained that there are dormitories, not cells, at the Santa Rosa prison.
He said there are dormitory areas where inmates are housed, and a minimum of 13 prisoners to a maximum of 26 will be kept in each dormitory.
At present, the Santa Rosa prison is empty, but Martinez said gradually prisoners will be moved from other prisons to the new facility to relieve the overcrowding problem.
At the Senate sitting on Tuesday, National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy said Government spent close to $60 million to modify and lease the Santa Rosa facility to accommodate a prison because of the urgent need for a place to house prisoners held during the State of Emergency last year.
The Santa Rosa facility was rented at $850,000 a month for a six-month period, which expired last month.
A total of $50 million was spent to modify the venue, and another $3,329,250 for office accommodation. He said consideration was being given to purchase the property from its owners—Wala Wala Ltd.
Martinez said this was a “wonderful idea” which he supports fully.
However, one of the directors of Wala Wala Ltd, Dr George Laquis, said he is still waiting on word from the Government as to what it plans to do—whether to continue to lease the facility or purchase it.
Laquis told the Express the millions spent on rent and modifications were justifiable, and those who levelled criticisms (Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds) do not know about real estate and its value.
He said Government got a good deal in paying $850,000 a month rent for the facility and Wala Wala Ltd could have made more money if it had proceeded with its initial plan to turn the venue into an indoor merchandise mart—which Laquis said would have been the “MovieTowne of the East”.
Laquis said plans were already completed and many big and small tenants had already expressed interest in the mart. He noted that the facility is over 400,000 square feet of building on 16.32 acres of land.
Laquis pointed out that Santa Rosa and environs are lucrative in terms of setting up commercial space because of the high population base. He noted that Trincity Mall, Food Basket and Naipaul’s Xtra Foods Supermarket are all operating successfully in the East.
While the plan to turn the facility into a booming business is put on hold until Government makes a decision, Laquis said he was impressed by the transformation of the facility into what he described as the “best prison in Trinidad”.
He said he was in awe of how spacious the place was and he also confirmed cable TV was to be installed.
Laquis said Wala Wala Ltd will cooperate with the Government and “if it is in everybody’s best interest to sell, we will sell”.
During the State of Emergency last year, prisoners had to be evacuated from the Santa Rosa prison because of a leaking roof. Sandy said the roof was repaired at the expense of Wala Wala Ltd. Asked yesterday how much was spent to fix the roof, Laquis said the company spent a total of $5 million in renovations, inclusive of the roof work. (Trinidad Express)