The attacks against prison officers continued on Sunday morning after a prison officer’s house was shot at in Pleasantville. No one was injured. This comes on the heels of a Prison Commissioner’s Gerald Wilson advisory to officers to be vigilant after several threats began circulating on WhatsApp, of a plot to “kill any two officers.”
The attack came on the same day that Guardian Media published a front-page investigative article about the dangerous job of prison officers, 19 of whom were killed in the last two decades due to hits from inside the prison. The shooting occurred around 12.30 am at the home of Prison Officer II, Olang Harris.
Harris was not at home at the time but his wife, three daughters and son—ages 23, 22, 12 and 10—were inside.
His eldest daughter was watching television when she heard several loud explosions.
A man wearing a hooded jacket was seen running down the street and into a track. Harris who is attached to the Golden Grove Prison left work and was in Gasparillo with his colleagues when his daughter called him. Four bullets were pumped into the walls to the front and side of his house at Cedar Drive. This is the second time that his house was shot at. He said last year’s incident, however, involved his daughter who was a state witness in a robbery.
“I don’t know what prompted this because I don’t have any issue with any inmate. As far as I know I was not given warning or anything.” Within his 23 years of service, he has received verbal threats, but none recently. He felt, however, that the shooting was a warning.
“I think it directed towards officers, at least that is my initial thinking because recently we were issued a warning by the Commissioner to stay vigilant that there was a threat to all officers and their families.”
Harris said he is more concerned about his family’s safety. “As officers we know that our job entails a certain amount of danger because of the charges we are entrusted to deal with.” However, he said has an open-door policy with inmates and carry out his job without fear or favour. “They can meet me outside. They can talk to me.” Noting that the public view prison officers as “glorified guards and corrupt officials,” he said.
“I know that there are corrupt officials and they will want to link all attacks to some level of corruption which is not true.”
Sometimes, he said, officers are attacked for simply doing their jobs.
“I am not rough with the inmates. I deal with them accordingly. I don’t know if somewhere along the line someone was peeved by some action of mine or some action by any officer as a matter of fact because they just attack anybody at random as times.”
He asked that prison officers be shown more compassion from a “national perspective.”
“This is not an easy job. The stress level is real high and we don’t get paid enough to do (this job).”
He declined to comment on whether he felt enough was being done to protect officers.
Harris will be meeting with senior prison officials and the police today.
He said his wife and children were initially shaken up but were doing better.
Harris’s friend and colleague Richard Sandy who also lived in Pleasantville was fatally shot on October 8, 2017, at a bar in Gasparillo. A man who had served time in prison was charged with his murder.