September 25, 2016

Govt mulls separate facility for high-risk criminals

– wants better training for prison officers

Government is considering the option of isolating high-risk criminals in a maximum security facility as a precautionary measure to prevent any possible reoccurrence of the unrest that erupted at the overcrowded Camp Street Prison; killing 17 prisoners as well as injuring several inmates and prison officers.

President David Granger

President David Granger

Prisioners during the recent unrest at the Georgetown Prison

Prisioners during the recent unrest at the Georgetown Prison

President David Granger, during his weekly telecast ‘The Public Interest’, told media operatives that the prison facilities need to be evaluated and certain criminals ought to be housed in a maximum security facility.
“What we are contemplating is ensuring that there is a facility… correctional facility… which can guarantee the security of high-risk prisoners without allowing the outbreak of the type of violence we’ve seen,” he stated.
Granger reminded that the three major prisons (New Amsterdam, Mazaruni and Georgetown) were built in the 19th century and as such, its physical infrastructure is not up to par with international standards.
Nonetheless, he assured that the improvement of the infrastructure of the prisons is something the State is current taking into consideration.
While on the issue of the historic three-day rioting that occurred at the Camp Street penitentiary, the President spoke about the need for better training for prison officers as a means of stamping out the inclination to get involved in corruption.
“We want to have more trained prison officers so that the integrity of prison officers is beyond question. It is quite clear that the contraband items had to be done due to the laxity or inefficiency of [the] prison service or with the complicity with members of the prison service,” the Head of State related.
On that note, President Granger emphasised the need to improve the quality of prison staff, at least through enhanced training. Moreover, the President posited that these training sessions can better prepare prison officers to more effectively deal with situations of this nature.
“We need to give them a certain quality of training that prepares them for this type of occupation,” the President posited.
In addition to improved training exercises, Granger admitted that the profession is not very attractive and therefore, more incentives need to be offered to encourage young adults to join the prison service.
He said these incentives would include better pay and better working conditions.
Nonetheless, Granger reminded that the Commission of Inquiry into the incidents that occurred at the Camp Street Prison is underway and therefore, Government will be waiting on the recommendations included in the final report before making a decision on the way forward.
The probe will be headed by former High Court Judge, Justice James Patterson as Chairman; Human Rights Coordinator Merle Mendonca, and former Director of Prisons Dale Erskine.
Among the Terms of Reference (ToR) to guide them during the inquiry are to investigate, examine and report on the causes, circumstances and conditions that led to the disturbances that resulted in the death of 17 prisoners and any other subsequent disturbances at the Camp Street Prison; and inquire into the nature of all injuries sustained by the prisoners during the disturbances on and any other subsequent disturbances.
The Commissioners will also have to determine whether the conduct of the staff of the Guyana Prison Service who were on duty and thereafter was in conformity with the Standard Operating Procedures of the Guyana Prison Service; as well as to determine whether the deaths of the 17 prisoners was as a result of negligence, abandonment of duty, disregard of instructions, inaction of the prison officers who were on duty.
After probing the incident, the three-member CoI is expected to make comprehensive recommendations to ensure the safety of the prisons henceforth. They are required to make recommendations in the areas of improving the physical infrastructure of the prison; security arrangements in relation to the custody, management and control of prisoners; appropriate treatment of prisoners in compliance with legal and other requirements, and to prevent a recurrence of any such disturbances.

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