Corrections seek permanent solution for smuggling of contraband in prison

Items attempted to be smuggled into local jails in 2020 | Photo: Maldives Correctional Service

Male’, Maldives – The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS), on Saturday, confirmed its decision to carry out a number of operations in pursuit of a permanent halt to growing issues of contraband being smuggled into local prisons.

According to Prison Commissioner Ahmed Mohamed-Fulhu, several successful operations were already executed across the previous week, resulting in the seizure of a large number of illegal items.

Although concerns over the rampant import of contraband by inmates were raised on several prior occasions, even during earlier administrations, the commissioner reported that the problem increased in severity in recent years.

“We shall continue to conduct search operations, in close succession, until the issue is permanently resolved”, tweeted Commissioner Mohamed-Fulhu.

As a further interdiction strategy, MCS has officially contracted a party to fortify and heighten Asseyri Prison’s boundary walls as means of preventing people from flinging contraband over its exterior.

However, no further information was provided on other measures that may be under consideration, to ensure that counterparts would be prevented from engaging in the aforementioned criminal behavior outside correctional facilities.

Commissioner Mohamed-Fulhu also revealed that discussions were underway to install jammers to prevent prisoners from making unsanctioned calls using phones they had smuggled in, adding that the institution was working to update their technical support to increase overall security.

Over the last year, MCS has terminated at least 10 officers in connection to contraband issues including persons directly involved in the smuggling of phones, drugs, and those who withheld information about such illegal activities.

In the past, MCS has come under fire for its poor treatment of prisoners and has received numerous allegations of human rights violations. These include serious accusations of torture by other inmates as well as guards, being denied access to legal assistance or familial support, dismissal of health complications, and so on.

While these concerns seem to have minimized over time, there have been several incidents of concern, that many have suggested indicate negligence on part of authorities.

Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), as recently as 2020, sought measures against the authority over failure to provide clean drinking water to inmates at Dhoonidhoo Prison, Kaafu Atoll. In June 2021, a 27-year-old Maldivian male suffered an overdose whilst incarcerated at Maafushi Prison over a drug-related offense.

Since the COVID19 pandemic emerged in the Maldives, MCS moved to release many prisoners determined to be at ‘high risk’ including high profile inmates such as former President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. The decision was met with relief and ire from the public, the latter factions arguing that the release of certain prisoners only exacerbated the plight of their families amid lockdowns and economic regression.