Allegations of prison beatings continue
“I do hope my son is still alive when I next get to visit him” - inmate’s father
By Dale Andrews
Roopnarine Singh did not expect that after he willingly turned in his son to the prison authorities that he would have to be hoping that he is still alive by the time his next visit came around.
Singh’s son, Suruj Narine Singh, who began a three-year sentence for break and enter and larceny earlier this year, had escaped from the Georgetown Prison in January and was given an additional two years for walking out of the Camp Street facility some 20 days after his sentence began.
But now the prisoner has been in and out of the Prison Infirmary, following a severe beating, allegedly at the hands of Prison Officers, and his relatives believe that if he does not get proper medical treatment from a specialist his deteriorating condition could lead to his demise.
Recently there have been reports that several prisoners suffered injuries after beatings by prison officials who refuse to take them to the Georgetown Hospital for medical attention, for fear that their actions would be exposed.
Prison officials have denied the allegations despite this newspaper informing them that prisoners themselves have related their plight to Kaieteur News.
Even a prison officer who did not wish to be named, and who said he was saddened by what was taking place, confirmed that prisoners were being beaten.
The relatives of several prisoners have been in contact with this newspaper and prison officials have reportedly barred some of them from visiting the institution to prevent any leakage of information on the situation. Roopnarine Singh is one such person.
The Mon Repos resident told this newspaper that following his son’s escape, two Prison officials immediately went to his house and informed him about the development.
Suspecting that the escapee would go to his parents’ home, the officers returned a day later. The escapee’s father and the rest of his household were placed into custody at the Beterverwagting Police Station where they spent nine hours.
Singh said that following their release from custody, he made every attempt to pass on any information of his son’s whereabouts to the authorities.
Eventually on February 6, after being on the run for about one week, his son did turn up at his house and Singh himself informed the police, who subsequently came and arrested him.
“I was one of the callers that informed the police to pick him up,” Singh told this newspaper.
The young man was passed through the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court, where he was given an additional two-year sentence for unlawful escape.
Singh said that he thought that he had done his lawful duty by turning in his son and that he would serve out his sentence without any further incident. But he was mistaken.
Suruj Narine Singh was immediately placed in solitary confinement on February 9.
According to his father, reliable sources from within the prison informed him that his son was taken out from his cell by officers (names given) on the very night that he was readmitted and severely beaten and then thrown back into the solitary cell.
“The ninth of February to today’s date (March 20), he’s from the solitary to the infirmary… solitary to the infirmary, because of the beating and the sickness and the lock down,” Singh told this newspaper.
He said that his son’s body still bears the scars from the beating, which was inflicted with pieces of wood and other instruments.
“At one time his face start getting abscess and other parts of his body,” Singh informed.
The prisoner’s mother Kamla Singh said that she last saw her son on February sixth when she visited him at the prison.
On that occasion he appeared visibly sick and was trembling uncontrollably.
“When I go, I see he got he sheet and thing wrap up and I asked him where he going. He tell me that he going back to the infirmary. He start cry. He get fine, all he face and so pull down. They had he a distance away so I couldn’t see he injuries,” Kamla Singh said.
She said that surprisingly, her recent visit to her son in prison was supervised unlike the previous ones.
“He had an officer next to he so he couldn’t talk wha happen. We couldn’t ask he anything. He trembling and he start to cry and I tell he ‘don’t cry, you time gone soon cut,” the prisoner’s mother informed.
She disclosed that she was prevented from seeing him the day after his initial beating.
“I am not fighting over the sentence but a man cannot be punished three times for the same offence. His only punishment should have been the two-year sentence – no beating, no solitary,” Singh stated.
He said that following complaints expressing his concern for his son’s well being, Acting Director of Prison Poshanand Tahal had assured him that the matter would be investigated.
“I had a talk with Mr. Tahal last week Thursday, explaining everything to him. He asked me to give him one week to look into it. I called him back yesterday (Thursday) and he said, ‘Mr. Singh, I took out your son from solitary yesterday afternoon. He’s no longer in solitary, he’s in the open space now’. I felt good,” Singh related.
But instead of the situation getting better, Singh said that officials at the Camp Street jail have taken their brutal action a step further, as if to punish him for his father reporting their actions to a higher authority.
Singh said that as recent as last Friday, his son was stripped naked, bound and thrown back into solitary confinement.
Upon hearing this, Singh contacted the Acting Director, who again promised to investigate.
However, since then Singh said that he has been unable to make further contact with Tahal to ascertain the situation.
He said that he is so frustrated that he plans to take the matter to the highest authority and even if it means highlighting the situation internationally, he will.
“I’m not getting anywhere. It appears to me that the next thing they will do is say that he is dead and bring him out in a body bag and say that he kill himself. I gonna go as far as possible for this sir,” a visibly disgusted Singh told this newspaper.
For weeks, this newspaper has been trying to get a comment from Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee on the alleged ill treatment of prisoners at the Camp Street facility.
Recent international human rights reports had given Guyana a negative rating with regards to the treatment and condition of prisoners.