…during countrywide raidsAs part of continuous efforts to rid the prison system of contraband items, the Joint Services on Saturday carried out a countrywide search at the various penitentiaries.The raids were conducted at the Georgetown, Lusignan, Mazaruni, New Amsterdam, and Timehri prisons.The six-and-a-half-hour long exercise, which commenced at 06:00h, resulted in the discovery of over 275 contraband items ranging from weapons and cellphones to homemade wine and pepper sauce.A full list of the contraband found included 28 cellular phones; in excess of 30 cellphone chargers and batteries; six USB cables; four SIM cards; a memory card; and four earplugs, along with a quantity of cigarettes and cannabis; 84 cigarette lighters; ashtrays and 20 smoking utensils.In addition, over 65 improvised weapons, five pairs of scissors, a staple machine and a quantity of razor blades, nails, wire, sand paper and small boulders were found. The ranks also unearthed 24 metal spoons, a tattoo machine, two mirrors and playing cards, as well as bottles of homemade wine and pepper sauce.Except for the Lusignan Prison, there were no other incidents during the exercise. At the East Coast Demerara penitentiary, inmates in the Holding Bays hurled stones and other objects at the Police and prison ranks; however there were no injuries reported.Contraband smuggling has long been a perennial problem within the local prison system and this is compounded by the fact that both prison and Police Officers are facilitating the illegal trade, which is said to be “big business”.While the authorities have been struggling to curb the illegal practice, there has been a breakthrough in the apparent network among rogue officers. In fac, only last week, two prison ranks were fingered in contraband smuggling at two separate facilities. One of the officers was caught on camera with a parcel containing 1032 grams marijuana and 39 packs of cigarettes, which was thrown over the fence at the New Amsterdam Prison and hid in the facility’s kitchen. He later admitted to committing the act.The other rank was taken into custody after an inmate at the Timehri Prison was found with a container of 584 grams of marijuana in the compound. The prisoner said he was given the narcotic by the officer, who has since denied the allegation.Meanwhile last month, four prison officers were arrested after they smuggled a bottle of rum and a pack of cigarettes into the Lusignan Prison the weekend prior.These officers were subsequently charged and interdicted from duty.Furthermore, five other prison officers were relieved of their duties back in July after they were fingered in an incident whereby a parcel containing cannabis had been thrown into the Lusignan Prison Holding Bay area.Addressing a thanksgiving ceremony to commemorate the 35th Prisons Service Week on Sunday, Samuels disclosed that so far for the year, some 28 prison officers have been dismissed. He explained that 11 of those ranks were dismissed for facilitating or directly smuggling contrabands into the prisons system. The Prisons Director added that there are 12 ranks currently interdicted from duty, nine of whom have been charged either departmentally or criminally for trafficking related activities.At that event, both Samuels and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan decried rouge elements within the prison service, who contribute to contraband smuggling within the system and called for ranks to speak out against wrongdoings by their colleagues.