Following the largest and deadliest prison riot to have ever occurred in Guyana, Government on Wednesday said that it has accepted an invitation from the United States Government for officials here to participate in a mock prison riot exercise.
Cabinet has agreed for members of the Guyana Prison Service to be part of the 18th mock prison riot to be held at West Virginia State Prison in the US between May 1 and 4 later this year.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman
Camp Street Prison
This is in response to an invitation by the US Government, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said on Wednesday.
“The mock prison riot facilitates tactical training and demonstrations resulting in practitioner feedback that shapes the law enforcement industry on a global scale,” Trotman told the media at a post-Cabinet media briefing.
According to Trotman, the training being offered is expected to increase the capacity of the Prison Service to respond to prison unrest or other emergencies.
Five prison officers are expected to be part of this activity: Cadet Officer Kadefa Hayle, Chief Prison Officer Peter Barker, Chief Prison Officer Shawn Charles, Chief Prison Officer Kirk Joseph and Principal Officer 2 Lionel Kate.
Last Thursday, 17 prisoners died in a fire, said to have been set by those very inmates at the Camp Street Prison. Thirteen persons, including officers, were also injured. 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.
Prison officials, acting on reports, had carried out a search last 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 by putting their mattresses in front of the grille of their cells and setting them ablaze. Firefighters spent hours there, putting out at least three separate blazes. After the firemen had 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 fighters 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 Georgetown Public 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 hours, waiting for any information about their imprisoned relatives.
Subsequent to the unrest, the prisoners, after a successful meeting with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, had their complaints heard.
A Commission of Inquiry has been established to investigate the circumstances leading to the unrest.