Feb 07, 2010 News
By Dale Andrews
If authorities had heeded the order issued by then Minister of Home Affairs, Gail Teixeira, in 2006, Friday morning’s double homicide at the Georgetown Prison might have been avoided.
This is the view of both current and former inmates, who are convinced that the state must take responsibility for the deaths of murder accused Solomon Blackman and Dawan Singh.
Blackman was allegedly beaten to death by fellow remand prisoners after he had bludgeoned Singh to death while they were being housed in the capital section of the Camp Street facility.
This newspaper was reliably informed that following a mini riot in the prison in 2006, the then Home Affairs Minister, Gail Teixeira, had recommended that Blackman be sent to the mental hospital in Berbice.
This was after prisoners had complained at a meeting with the government official about the threat he posed to their safety. Several other concerns were raised at that meeting that would make life less difficult for the inmates, and reduce the threat of further riots.
“They knew they had a psycho like Solomon who trips and beat up Prison Officers,” said former treason accused Mark Benschop, who spent five years in the Camp Street Prison.
He said that Blackman was placed in the same division with him and he was the person who had raised the issue with the former Home Affairs Minister.
But of course Blackman was never removed from the Camp Street Prison.
Prisoner Blackman was charged for murder committed on two policemen on 2004-03-01. On admission his age was recorded as 34 years. Prisoner Blackman was unstable having been deemed to be of unsound mind, the records stated.
Recently, due to persistent medical treatment he showed some improvement. Consequently, he was removed from the Social Division and allowed to live and mix with the general population.
“Which doctor gave the okay that he had improved? The prison officials took it upon themselves to put him there. He was not seeing any doctor,” an inmate told this newspaper.
Blackman’s mental instability was given as the reason for the delay in the Preliminary Inquiry into his murder charge.
Since being charged, Blackman had appeared before three Magistrates, beginning with Magistrate Adrian Thompson, then to Magistrate Gordon Gilhuys and finally now Magistrate Nigel Hawke. Still the preliminary inquiry (PI) has not been completed.
Initially it was reported that the delay was stemming from the police not taking the accused to court on several occasions. According to a source, on most occasions when the accused was taken to court, he was not in the proper mental state to appear before the Magistrate.
“Sometimes he could not be brought from the prison because of his mental state. Sometimes they actually got him from the prison and he would hold on to the bars downstairs at the court lock-ups and would refuse to move,” the source told this newspaper.
“He had very good size (was strongly built) and he behaved very badly so very often even if he went into the courtroom, the Magistrate ordered him out and nothing got going because of his general mental instability,” the source added.
Last Friday was not the first time Blackman attacked fellow inmates. From all appearances, prison authorities adopt a hands-off approach when it comes to violence among the inmates.
The current inmate told Kaieteur News that on Friday morning, prison officials took their own time in responding to alarms raised by the other inmates when Blackman was assaulting Singh.
“As soon as Blackman stab the man we called for the Chief Prison Officer Mr. Darlington. He office deh about 25 feet from the capital and he did not come. They don’t care; they tek about one hour fuh come. This thing start about 2:10(am) and they come after three,” the inmate disclosed.
Another report indicated that prison authorities stood idly by and watched the brutal events unfold.
According to reports, prison authorities seem all too happy to place misbehaving prisoners among the aggressive inmates in the capital section of the prison.
“If they (prison authorities) know that a person is not well behaved, they deliberately transfer them to the Capital Section where you will be beaten. It’s a dog eat dog situation.”
And according to Benschop, there are a number of cases where mentally ill inmates are placed among the ordinary prisoners, reiterating that the Georgetown prison is a boiling pot.
There are reports that another prisoner, condemned murderer Gary Moses, was certified as a mental patient and he is still being housed at Camp Street. When contacted yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee dismissed the positions taken by persons who felt that Blackman should not have been kept in the Camp Street facility.
“The court has to make a decision on whether or not he should be committed to a mental asylum. These people have no authority to do so,” Rohee told Kaieteur News.
This newspaper was told that during his earlier hearings before Magistrate Adrian Thompson, a request was made to have Blackman deemed incapable of standing trial.
The psychiatrist at the time had indicated that Blackman was a patient of his and that he had examined him on several occasions at the Georgetown Prisons.
“His conclusion was that he (Blackman) is mentally unstable,” the source pointed out.
Kaieteur News was told that there was some amount of apprehension about taking Blackman to the Psychiatric Hospital in Berbice since the facilities there are not adequate to contain a person of his disposition.
“There is no facility to keep him under lock-down. And given his violent outbursts it was the general feeling that to send him there may not have been the right thing to do. Persons just kept hoping that maybe the medication, while at the prison, would bring him around to stand trial,” the source said.
However, it was disclosed to this newspaper that Blackman has been refusing to take his prescribed medication.
“Who can force feed him or force him to take medication?” the source added. But despite his mental state the authorities were eager to have him stand trial whenever he had a lucid moment.
According to a source, despite Blackman’s position, he was not special, and like any other person who is charged with murder, the matter would have proceeded once he was deemed capable of standing trial.
The source explained that if at any point Blackman had a lucid moment where he could have followed the proceedings and instruct counsel, the proceedings would have taken place.
Yesterday, senior prison officials, including Director of Prisons Dale Erskine, spent the entire day trying to get a full picture of the circumstances that led to Friday morning’s incident.
“The state has to answer to Singh’s family for his death, since the authorities could have prevented something like this a long time ago,” Benschop stated.
It is still not clear if investigators will be able to determine who is culpable for Blackman’s death, since he was beaten by several other prisoners.
Yesterday, the situation in the prison however remained tense even as the authorities tried to calm the nerves of the inmates.
“Today we get fried chicken and cook-up. We never had that for a long, long time,” a current inmate told this newspaper.
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