Ranks of the Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Police Force have once again unearthed a quantity of contraband at the New Amsterdam Prison.The joint exercise on Saturday lasted for almost four hours, during which a section of the Berbice penitentiary was searched. Among the items found during the raid were 220 grams of cannabis, nine cellular phones, a number of phone chargers, several sim cards, and a quantity of wire, razor blades and lighters.Prisons Director (ag) Gladwin SamuelsThe smuggling of contraband items into prisons remains a perennial problem within the local system. Nevertheless, authorities have been working to curb the practice and these efforts have resulted in several prison officers being caught facilitating the illegal trade, which is said to be “big business”.In fact, only last week, four prison officers were arrested after they smuggled a bottle of rum and a pack of cigarettes into the Lusignan Prison last weekend. The officers have been charged and interdicted from duty on Tuesday last.Already, five 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.The Prisons Director posited that these contraband find its way into the prisons because unscrupulous prison officers are colluding to smuggle items into the prison system, hence it has been a challenge to curb the illegal practice.“The Standard Operating Procedures would see prison officers conducting searches to verify that persons are without banned items when entering the prisons. This system will only be effective when there is no collusion,” he posited.Samuels asserted that a firm stand must be taken against the smuggling of banned items into prisons.In a recent interview with Guyana Times, the Prisons Director had lamented on the struggles authorities are facing in detecting and weeding out corrupt officers from within the system. He had pointed out that despite efforts to rid the prison facilities of contraband, exercises such as raids create the demand for more illicit items, which some officers take advantage of and capitalise on.Moreover, Samuels noted that while several methods are there to gather intelligence in the prison environment, these efforts are hindered by the practice of officers who witness, or are aware of, such acts by their colleagues but choose to remain mum instead of reporting to higher authorities. This, the Prison Director said, has made it difficult for authorities to identify the rogue officers.“Many persons have not been forthcoming with information they are privy to and so these [corrupt] persons are not known… The fact that you cannot link it to so specific time, it is difficult to sanction persons who are on duty because sometimes when you discover these items, it could be days that they’re in the prison already and so to just go and bring charges against the persons who were on duty during that entire period might not be in the best interest of the service,” Samuels had asserted.Nevertheless, in efforts to further beef up security and prevent the smuggling of contraband into prison facilities, steps are being taken to acquire scanners for the various penitentiary facilities across the country. In fact, Samuels told Guyana Times that the first scanner is expected to be here sometime in December, while three others have been included in the 2019 Budget.