A massive manhunt is underway for four prisoners who staged a daring escape late Friday evening from the New Amsterdam Prison.
One of the four who escaped is a high-profile prisoner, convicted felon 34-year- old Raymond LaFleur, had only been remanded to prison on June 7, last, on the charge of murder.
Raymond La Fleur, known as Rickford Williams, of Circle Street, Skeldon, and Vryheid’s Lust Squatting Area, East Coast Demerara was incarcerated for drug trafficking and Murder.
He was recently charged with the murder of a prisoner at the New Amsterdam prison called Clato.
Raymond La Fleur also has a number of matters before the court including robbery, possession of arms and ammunition and throwing marijuana over the prison wall. He also has a plethora of matters before the court, including charges of possession of arms and ammunition, throwing marijuana over a prison fence and high profile robberies.
La Fleur got violent at reporters during the day in court last week and picked up a chair and threw it at the reporters present. The reporters dodged the object and retreated to safety.
Another escaped prisoner is Ram Sookdial, called Kevin “Long Hair” Narine. He was first remanded to prison on August 7, 2008 by Magistrate Chandra Sohan on several counts of robberies under arms.
He too has a series of criminal charges. He allegedly robbed Mohamed Azam at gunpoint of articles valued at $592,000; Balwant Henry of $1.2 million worth of items; Fazil Hursa of $980,000 in items, and Beram Persaud of $1.2 million worth of items.
All these incidents reportedly took place just off the Whim Village foreshore, on the Corentyne, on January 10, 2007. He is also charged with relieving Pavinchandra Deodat of $590,000 on January 11, 2007 on the Whim Village foreshore.
Then, on August 10, 2007, at Number Thirty-Five Village, he relieved Azrat Ali of $890,000 worth of items; Dhanessar Rampersaud of $1.1 million in items, and Dianand Gosiah of $1.2 million in supplies. These incidents took place at Number Three Village, West Coast Berbice.
On September 8, 2007, at Number Five Village backlands, Joseph Reynolds was relieved of a shotgun valued at $200,000.
On November 11, 2007, at Number Fifty-Eight foreshore, the next victim was Kenneth Padmore who was said to be robbed of supplies valued at $1.14 million.
Just last week, Sookdial was sentenced to nine years in prison at the Berbice High Court by Justice Brassington Reynolds.
The other two were identified as Vinood Gopual, 19 years of 34 Yakusari, Black Bush Polder, Berbice, who was remanded to prison on a charge of murder; and Vijay Seenarine, 33, of Little India, Skeldon, Corentyne, who was remanded to prison on a charge of Carnal Knowledge.
The New Amsterdam Prison is famous for numerous prison breaks in the past but officials seemed to have been caught off guard since everything seemed normal all day Friday.
Just last week, a Prison Officer, Orlando Jaundoo allegedly escorted another convicted prisoner, Krishna Paul Doerga to Nickerie, Suriname, under the presence of signing some papers, only to have Doerga make his bid to escape in a Nickerie taxi.
That was foiled and the Surinamese authorities arrested both men. The officer was charged with aiding and abetting the escape of a prisoner.
‘B’ Division Commander Stephen Merai said that he could not speak to the media. The Police Commissioner had banned his commanders from doing so earlier in the week. Director of Prisons Dale Erskine was not in office.
Up to Saturday afternoon, ranks of the army and police force were feverishly searching for the escapees. The news of the escape sent shockwaves in Berbice and many business persons have said that they are now fearful to know that there may be high profile criminals and murderers at large.
The office in charge of the New Amsterdam Prison, Superintendent Mr. Scott will once again come under scrutiny since investigations were previously carried out on him when he was in charge of the Lusignan Prison after some prisoners escaped from that facility. The report was prepared by a Board of Inquiry that was established last year to look into the allegations of misconduct at the Lusignan Prison.
Officials and law enforcement are concerned about the negligence of the security situation at the prisons around the country.
Last March there was also unrest at the New Amsterdam penal complex which was caused by a senior officer instituting certain rules that prisoners found unusual.
Kaieteur News learnt that the said officer was lately transferred from Mazaruni Prison to New Amsterdam.
Friday last a Prison Officer Orlando Jaundoo of the New Amsterdam Prison was remanded to prison by Magistrate Roby Benn until June 24 for aiding and abetting a prisoner, Krishna Paul Doerga to escape from the New Amsterdam Prison.
Doerga who was serving a three-year sentence for fraud, left with the prison officer under the pretext of having him repair a sewing machine at the Prison Officers Recreational Hall and Sports club across the street, but ended up with him at Springlands and then in Nickerie, Suriname where they were captured.
This present scenario also raises concerns surrounding the staffing at the penal institution on the night of the escape, and their capability to fully secure the inmates at the institution.
Questions will arise about the lax patrol around the confines of the prison external, the last tally that was carried out before the escape and the circumstances under which inmates are being kept in their respective cells among many other issues.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is fully aware of the plethora of problems in the prison system. As with the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Fire Service, the Guyana Prison Service has been the subject of several foreign and local reports which made recommendations for reform.
A British team “ comprising Alastair Papps, Arthur de Frisching and Brian Fellowes from the International Consultancy Group of the British Government Cabinet Office Centre for Management and Policy Studies “ presented its Prison Reform Report to then Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj since July 2001.
The Report, which was the result of investigations and consultations conducted over an 18-month period, read like a template for recommendations for reform over the past decade.
Its main findings were that the criminal justice system did not offer adequate alternatives to incarceration; conditions for both staff and prisoners were awful; prisoners’ basic human rights were frequently infringed; the Georgetown Prison was seriously overcrowded and that there was minimal scope for constructive work to help prisoners to resettle in society.
Without implementing the scores of recommendations of previous commissions, it would be a waste of time to convene new ones that are bound to restate old truths.
In addition, the combination of low pay, long hours, dangerous work, a stressful setting and insufficient training make the situation dangerous.
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