Corrections Secretary says no federal probe into contract underway
‘Deaths occur in the department,’ Rolón says about new inmate case
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Corrections Secretary Erik Rolón said Thursday that reports about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigating the bidding process granting a multimillion-dollar contract are fake news.
“There has been no requirement, no summons from the federal authorities. It is a process that has been followed according to the channels and regulations in force. Everything that is said in the media regarding the investigation is totally false,” Rolón told reporters.
Reportedly, federal authorities were investigating alleged irregularities at the department’s Bid Reconsideration Board regarding a $300 million contract to run prison commissaries, or canteens, and supply food to the inmates.
He said no department employee has been contacted by federal authorities.
When questioned whether he could assure there would be no news of any related arrests, Rolón replied, “obviously there are some people, who I don’t know, that have the intention of giving incorrect information. I cannot guarantee some news [report] will come out tomorrow but I can guarantee that every time one comes out I will be giving clear and precise information concerning this servant or any other official.”
Rolón also spoke about another inmate who was found dead in his cell.
“It was at [correctional facility] Bayamón 292. It is already in the process of investigation. A Police report was made. For now, what we have is preliminary information, so there will be two investigations. The one by the Police and the one that is done in the department,” the secretary replied to questions from the media.
The official minimized the situation despite the death of several inmates having been reported.
“Unfortunately, deaths occur in the department. This is something that happens year after year. What’s important is that it is clear this situation is being investigated and there will be accountability,” the secretary said.
Rolón did not want to elaborate on reports that point to the death as a result of a fight. The body had several bruises. The incident occurred in the middle of a lockdown ordered as Hurricane Dorian approached the island.
“Whether there is a lockdown or not, what it means is no one enters or leaves the prison. The rest works normally, although security is increased. All there is, is speculative information that will be determined once the two investigations started are concluded,” he said.”
Do you not believe that the time you served as deputy chief of staff affected your performance as Corrections secretary?” he was asked.
“Not at all. When I was deputy was when a lot of initiatives were moved forward,” he replied.
“But we also see what is happening with the deaths in the prisons,” reporters pressed.
“I’ll say it again, deaths occur in prisons. And the statistics are similar to those for years. That has nothing to do with my duties as deputy,” he replied.
“But it’s been 40 years since there was a Corrections officer was murdered,” reporters insisted.
“And the question is whether that has to do with my duties as deputy chief of staff. The final report reflects that it was not due to lack of instructions, regulations or protocol. Even that it was not due to the lack of internal restrictions or lack of personnel, it was due to the very particular execution of a rule that had been issued and was not followed,” the secretary replied about the death of officer Pedro Rodríguez Mateo, who was killed at the beginning of August by and inmate, Luis Sostre Piccinini, who was later found dead in his cell.
Rolón did not inform Gov. Wanda Vázquez about this death. The secretary was attending in a meeting with the Safety Project Management Office (PMO) for response and recovery established by former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to channel fund requests more effectively.