September 25, 2016

17 dead, several injured in fiery prison riot

Several hours of unrest within the Georgetown Prison on Camp Street have left 17 inmates dead and five others injured following a fire on Thursday in a section of the facility.

Uneasy relatives outside of the Camp Street Prison

Uneasy relatives outside of the Camp Street Prison

According to reports, the bodies of 16 prisoners were found in the ‘Capital A’ section of the Prison Thursday morning. This section, located on the eastern side of the compound on John Street, holds prisoners on remand for or convicted of serious crimes.

Persons gathered outside the Georgetown Prison on Thursday during the unrest

Persons gathered outside the Georgetown Prison on Thursday during the unrest

The other dead prisoner has been identified as Rayon Paddy, who was charged for killing Sterling Products Limited security guard Wilbert Stewart and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Engineer Trevor Abrams last year. He was among six prisoners rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital on Thursday. Paddy was reportedly pronounced dead on arrival.
The other five prisoners were admitted to the medical facility and were being treated for serious burns about their bodies.
This newspaper was told that some of the prisoners died from smoke inhalation since they pulled shut the grill door to a section of the jail in resisting prison officers, who were trying to transport them to a safer location within the compound. The officers consequently could not get to them.
As the news started to spread, family members of prisoners rushed to the Prison to enquire whether their imprisoned loved ones were burnt as well. In some cases, they were told that their relatives were injured in the fire and rushed to the Hospital.
Chaos subsequently erupted at the medical facility as family members were desperate for information, but none was forthcoming from the officials there. This resulted in the police security calling for back-up from the Police Force as well as prison officers. Just over a dozen additional officers were deployed to the medical facility, and they cordoned off the entrance to the Emergency Room.
All of the patients and persons, who were in the ER waiting room, were ushered out of the building and asked to wait at the seating area outside as most, if not all, of the ER staffers were preoccupied with the injured prisoners.
Guyana Times was told that instructions had come from the head offices (of the Prison Service and Police Force) not to disclose any information. This angered those gathering, with some of them venting their frustrations.
One woman said, “We are asking them questions and they ain’t saying nothing, at least if this is going on, come out and tell us… people need to know what’s going on, we need information… they lock us out at Camp Street when we try to get information and tell us to come here (the Hospital) but when we come here, is the same thing happening.”
She was there looking for information on her relative Samuel Bacchus, who was charged back in 2013 for conspiracy in relation to the robbery/murder of Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Coast Demerara businessman Zulfikar Namdar.
“Nobody ain’t come to fight or anything; we just concerned. We got loved ones in there – we heard he is in there, people see when they bring him and they ain’t giving no sort of information,” another woman, whose brother, Collis Collison, was also injured, vented. Collison was on remand for discharging rounds at the Police. He was also freed from the High Court on a murder charge back in 2014.
The relatives of 28-year-old Jermaine Otto, who is on remand for the murder of businessman Ashok Raghu outside the Botanical Gardens, Vlissengen Road, Georgetown, in 2014, and 22-year-old Oswald Yaw, who is on remand for collecting $1.7 million to kill Herstelling, East Bank Demerara joiner Nathan Persaud last year, were also there.
However, up to press time, this newspaper could not have confirmed whether any of these persons were killed as a result of the unrest. The names of the 15 inmates who died at the Prison have not been released. Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, during a press conference on Thursday, disclosed that the families of the dead prisoners would be informed before the names were released to the public.
Guyana Times understands that prison officials, acting on reports, had carried out a check on Wednesday within the ‘Capital A’ building during which several contraband items were seized. These included 19 cellular phones and a quantity of narcotics.
It was in retaliation for this that the prisoners set a series of fires later that night. The prisoners reportedly removed the mattresses and put them in front of the grille of their cells before setting them afire.
Firefighters spent hours there, putting out at least three separate blazes at the Camp Street Prison on Wednesday evening. After they managed to put out the first fire, the angry inmates started another blaze at the same spot. This fire too was successfully doused after about 15 minutes, much to the dissatisfaction of the prisoners, who again started another fire. The last inferno took fire tenders approximately half an hour to contain close to midnight.
No one was injured during Wednesday night’s incident, but Thursday morning, the inmates continued the unrest within the confines of the penitentiary and some were injured.
During the second bout of ‘lash out’, the prisoners started another fire around 11:15h. Persons in the area related that there was a loud explosion in the penitentiary before smoke was seen coming from the same building that was on fire the night before.
While firefighters were able to put out the flames, several inmates died and others were badly injured and rushed to the Hospital.
As the crowd began to grow in the vicinity of the Georgetown Prison, heavily armed Police Officers were deployed as added security. While some persons went to the hospital after hearing inmates were transferred there, dozens stuck around for at least three to four hours, waiting for any information about their imprisoned relatives. Others were just lingering in hopes of getting a glimpse of the dead prisoners.

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