By Rabindra Rooplall
Relatives of inmates at the Camp Street Prison are peeved at the treatment meted out to them and their relatives who are incarcerated within the Prison.
According to Sabrina Persaud, she was harassed on many occasions by prison officials when she went to visit her reputed husband.
This was especially so on occasions when she had nothing to offer some officers in the form of monetary gifts, so as to have an early visit.
She explained that on one occasion she was “hustled” by a male Prison Officer. She said that this officer would normally make sexual gestures that would make her very uncomfortable.
However, she would tolerate the conversations in order to not offend him, so that she would not have to wait hours at the prison gate to secure a visit with her relative. “One of them even asked me to go out with him one night; they have no respect for people. They even want sex as payment for special treatment,” she said.
Sabrina disclosed that harassment meted out to persons who visit relatives at the prison forces them to reduce the number of visits, since standing in the rain outside for hours and the disrespect shown to them are enough to frustrate anyone into staying away from the “hell hole.”
Sabrina further said many other women who would have had distasteful experiences are afraid to complain, or to come forward with their stories because of fear of victimisation by Prison Officials or the harassment of their relative within the confines of the institution.
According to 46-year-old Jacqueline Persaud, her brother Derrick Callender has been incarcerated for 17 years and has spent 14 of those on Death Row.
Whenever she visits her brother she tries not to offend prison officers since they are almost always not in a pleasant mood. Some would be disrespectful.
However, she began to explain the conditions her brother had to endure while being a condemned prisoner. She said lately the meals that are served to them have become worse.
In the morning Callender receives “something baked as bread” with tea. For lunch, he is served rice and “something like burnt sugar stew,” while in the evening it’s the same rice with “another burnt sugar stew.”
Jacqueline disclosed that her brother related to her that there are even two condemned prisoner living together in a very small cell, which she said is not right since each condemned prisoner is supposed to be assigned to their own cell. “Why are they treating human beings like animals?”
According to another woman, who requested to remain anonymous, her relative Kernel Vaux, who is a condemned prisoner, related to her that there is a dumpsite located at the back of the prison which breeds rodents that eventually find their way into prisoners cells and destroy their books, soaps and other essential items.
According to a relative of Raymond Persaud, called Tarzan, who has served some 25 years in prison (20 of those on Death Row) is currently a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) since he is suffering from hypertension, and stricture.
She added that the suffering some persons go through while being in prison for an indefinite period is worst than any death, given the indefinite periods of frustration, mental anguish, stress and turmoil they have to go through, and this may cause severe depression which might lead to suicide.
She revealed that on most occasions the food has no value and Raymond would eat “onion with salt and rice” which pleases him more than the “slush” that is cooked.
Another issue that was highlighted was mixing visits to Death Row inmates with those of other convicted prisoners, since the prison rules stipulate that condemned prisoners are supposed to receive their visits separately.
According to Margaret Paul, 51, who lives on the East Coast Demerara, her brother Terrence Sahadeo has been in prison since September 1985. He was eventually sentenced to death years after and she has always stood by his side. Now, she has become ill and is pleading with the president to commute her brother’s death sentence to life imprisonment.
An emotional Margaret revealed that her brother will mark another birthday on June 6, while she will be celebrating hers three days later.
“I would love for the president to give him a life sentence instead. He is fed up. He even said once is better he kill himself and done,” the woman told Kaieteur News.
The prison population in the entire country has grown to 2,100 inmates. According to sources within the Guyana Prison Service, the Georgetown Prisons accounts for just over half the number with a total of 1,100, most of whom are on remand.
The New Amsterdam facility holds the second largest number of inmates, 390 (310 men and 80 women).
This is followed by Mazaruni with 305, Lusignan, 170, and Timehri 100.
Of the total prison population, 1,225 are convicted prisoners while 875 are on remand, while 31 are on Death Row.
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