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Several Jamaican correctional officers who were, or are still assigned to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), have encountered tragedy had misfortune over recent years.
Some of the applicable incidents have occurred while they were carrying out their lawful duties, and have left some of the officers dead or injured, bringing to light the difficult and dangerous nature of their work.
Others sadly, fell victims to criminals or general misfortune while being off duty.
Below is an outline of some of the instances that fell into the two categories of events over recent years.
Latest misfortune for DCS
The DCS was plunged into mourning last week with the news that one of its own who had been missing since Monday, was found dead on Thursday afternoon in Spur Tree, Manchester.
Reverend Orville Moore, the Acting Deputy Commissioner, Rehabilitation and Probation Aftercare Services within the agency, went missing after leaving a home off Molynes Road in St Andrew driving his Toyota Fortuner motor vehicle.
Moore was head of the Santa Cruz Holiness Christian Church in St Elizabeth. The church is a member of the Holiness Christian Church Incorporated.
Friends, relatives and church associates of Moore have described him as a man of integrity.
Reverend Orville Moore
“I’m wrestling with the ‘why’ because of who he was; a man of integrity, a man who was honest, (and) a man who, first of all, loved God,” said Reverend Althea McFarlane, the head of the Black River Holiness Christian Church in St Elizabeth.
The DCS, in a release, said Moore’s body was found in Spur Tree, and preliminary reports indicate that he was found beside the wreckage of his motor vehicle.
“It appears to be an accident (crash),” said the DCS, echoing similar reporting from the police on Moore’s suspected cause of death.
But speculation still remains rife on how Moore died, and if foul play was involved in passing.
Acting Commissioner of Corrections, Dr Marc Thomas, said in the release that, “It is a very challenging time for all of us at the Department of Correctional Services and the family of Reverend Moore.
“We send sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” he added.
Thomas said Moore “delivered exceptionally, and was professional in the execution of his duties across two decades.”
Moore began working with the Department on February 1, 2003 as a probation officer. He was appointed on October 1, 2004.
He was promoted on October 1, 2017 to Chief Probation Aftercare Officer.
He was then assigned Deputy Commissioner, Rehabilitation and Probation Aftercare Services (Acting) on May 12, 2023.
Moore’s death rehashes other similar fatal crashes that resulted in the deaths of other serving correctional officers and former members.
In July 2017, correctional officer Kalwayne Gordon died when the vehicle he was driving plunged into the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine.
Gordon, who was assigned to the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, was said to have been on his way to work when the accident occurred.
Reports were that Gordon’s Honda Civic motorcar was hit by a truck, and plunged into the Rio Cobre.
Three years later, former correctional officer Rollin Brown died after he sustained injuries when he was reportedly hit from his bicycle in Buff Bay, Portland.
The incident occurred about 4pm on Labour Day, May 23, 2020.
The police said two vehicles were travelling westerly from Buff Bay when the drivers lost control as they approached a corner near the community of Woodstock.
The cars ran off the road and into a ravine, and Brown was hit during the incident. He was later pronounced dead at hospital.
Murders of prison warders
Earlier this year, 22-year-old Giovanni Higgins, alias ‘Marcus’, a correctional officer, was among two persons who were shot and killed at a football field in Highgate, St Mary.
Higgins was off-duty at the time when he was killed along with 16-year-old Nathan Segree, alias ‘Pazzy’, a student of Guy’s Hill High School, on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
Both males were from Capture Land, Highgate, St Mary.
Reports are that about 6:30 pm, Segree and Higgins were among persons at the football field in the area when a motorcar was driven to the location.
Further reports are that armed men alighted from the vehicle and opened gunfire, hitting both persons before fleeing the scene.
Segree and Higgins were assisted to the hospital, where they were both pronounced dead.
Police sources believed the killings stemmed from an ongoing dispute over the years between men from the Highgate area and other communities.
Last year, the DCS was plunged into mourning following the brutal murder of 38-year-old correctional officer Shannon ‘David’ Briscoe.
Briscoe went missing on August 11, 2022 after being last seen driving his motorcar on the route between Half-Way Tree and Seaview Gardens in St Andrew.
His corpse was discovered two days later in a gully in Seaview Gardens, a day after his car was found in Trench Town, western Kingston, and his bank card was found in an ATM in downtown Kingston.
It is believed that Briscoe was moonlighting as a taxi operator at the time of his death.
Briscoe joined the DCS in 2020, and was the first from his batch to be given specialised duties, according to overseer of the Horizon Adult Remand Centre, Elon Higgins. He made that particular disclosure at Briscoe’s funeral in November last year.
No motive for Briscoe’s killing was ever disclosed.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 32-year-old Jimel Westney, a correctional officer assigned to the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, died after being stabbed by an inmate at the facility on Friday, November 13, 2020.
According to the DCS, Westney had been on the job for a month and two weeks, having assumed duties at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre on Thursday, October 1, 2020.
He died at hospital while undergoing treatment.
It was reported that about 9:45 am during the unlocking process at the correctional facility, an inmate stabbed the officer at the Spanish Town-based facility. The inmate was subsequently subdued by other correctional officers there.
Days later, 31-year-old Robert Thompson was charged with murder, introducing contraband in a penal institution, and assault at common law following Westney’s death.
Speaking in the Senate in December of last year, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Matthew Samuda, said he was informed that the man who allegedly took Westney’s life “pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years” in prison.
Samuda, who at the time of Westney’s murder had direct responsibility of the DCS as Minister without Portfolio in the National Security Ministry, said the slain officer’s mother contacted him.
He said she was “in deep pain” by the sentence, and felt “wronged” by the justice system.
On June 23, 2019, correctional officer Travis Anderson was shot and killed by gunmen in Pembroke Hall, St Andrew.
The 25-year-old’s gun was allegedly taken by his attackers.
Not much more details were published relative to his killing.
A year earlier, David Stewart, a 35-year-old correctional officer, was opening the grille to a bar he operated in his August Town, St Andrew community shortly after 8am on February 18, 2018, when gunmen, allegedly from a neighbouring section of the community, pumped eight bullets into his body.
Stewart’s death, it was reported at the time, stemmed from a gang conflict in August Town, and came a month after seven people were shot, four fatally, in January 2018 after gunmen opened fire on patrons at a bar, also in the community.
While being spared death, some correctional officers were injured in conflicts while on duty at various penal facilities across the country.
On Boxing Day, December 26, 2019, the DCS reported that a correctional officer was stabbed by a prisoner, while another inmate also sustaining injuries during a clash at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, traditionally known as the General Penitentiary.
The allegations are that during a routine spot check on that particular Thursday morning, a correctional officer spotted an inmate with a cell phone.
In an attempt by the correctional officer to take possession of the mobile device which is prohibited among inmates in the correctional facilities, an altercation developed, resulting in the correctional officer being stabbed and another inmate sustaining injuries.
Both injured persons were taken to hospital, where the correctional officer was admitted. His injuries were not considered to be serious at the time, while the inmate was treated and returned to the facility.
In July 2019, Devon Brooks, a 44-year-old inmate at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in Kingston, died of injuries he sustained during a brawl at the facility, during which a correctional officer was stabbed.
The Denham Town police reported that Brooks and a number of other men on remand at the facility attacked the warder and stabbed him multiple times with a makeshift knife.
In the process, the correctional officer reportedly defended himself with his baton, and delivered blows to Brooks’ body, including hitting him on his head.
Both men were later taken to hospital, where Brooks was pronounced dead and the correctional officer was admitted for treatment.
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