– conducts fact-finding mission at Mazaruni Prison
The Government is exploring its options for medium- and long-term solutions to the challenges facing the Guyana Prison Service (GPS). President David Granger, accompanied by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan on Sunday visited the Mazaruni Penal Settlement in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region (Seven).
Regional Chairman Gordon Bradford and Commander of F Division (Interior Locations), Ravindradat Budhram also joined the President at a meeting with staff of the institution and on a tour of the facility.
President David Granger and team enter the high-security level of the Mazaruni Prison during a tour on Sunday
The team paid close attention to the infrastructure of the settlement, including the maximum security area, a workshop and the staff quarters. The visit is part of an assessment of all the GPS facilities to determine current physical and human resources capacity so that informed decisions could be made on how best to improve the way the service functions.
President Granger referred to the visit as an important fact-finding and problem-solving mission and assured the staff and officials present at a briefing meeting, held before the tour of the facility, that problems within the GPS would be resolved within the limits of the country’s resources and to the best of the Government’s ability.
Referencing what was now Guyana’s worst prison riot ever, during which 17 inmates lost their lives at the Georgetown Prison last week, the President noted that the Prison Service had problems that were endemic which must be solved.
“Our presence here is not just a gut reaction. It is a plan to ensure that there is a long-term strategy. We are ensuring that the Guyana Prison Service fulfils its mandate. We have to build a system in which persons who enter this Service as inmates would have the best opportunities for rehabilitation and those who are incorrigible… would be prevented from bringing harm to society,” the President said.
The Head of State added that if these changes had been made over time, then the tragedy that occurred in Georgetown, might not have happened. He said, “What occurred in Georgetown ought not to have occurred had improvements been introduced to the Guyana Prison Service over a period of time… Some of the measures, which could have corrected or could have prevented the events of last week were not implemented.”
Upon his arrival at the 173-year-old penitentiary, the Head of State was presented with a thorough brief by Officer in Charge (OC), Alexander Hopkinson on the inner workings of the facility as well as the administrative and other challenges that are faced on a daily basis. The prison officers and other administrative staff were also given the opportunity to air their concerns with the President and the Ministers.
President Granger assured the staff that the Government would try its utmost to ensure that their issues, particularly those that relate to their personal welfare and that of their families, were addressed in line with what obtained within the other services, which fall under the remit of the Public Security Ministry.
At present, the prison houses a total of 289 inmates, 24 of whom are high-profile criminals. The required staff complement is 95, but the facility only has 54 staff currently. The OC explained that they were looking to increase their staff strength in order to increase capacity. However, accommodation and other logistical arrangements have to be addressed before that can happen.