When you live in small societies such as Guyana, and you are in protective custody, it is never going to be easy. If you wish to remain safe and free from tampering, there must be restraints on free movement.
Guyana is a small place. Stepping outside means stepping into the limelight whereby you are likely to be seen by someone who may have an interest in witness tampering.
In large countries like the United States of America, it is easier to settle witnesses under protection programmes. They can be sent to other states, given new identities and allowed to move freely and openly within their new communities without any fear of recognition by those from whom they are being kept safe.
If a person is being kept in safe-keeping because of an ongoing trial, the federal or state authorities would place serious restrictions on their movement and in their communication with others outside of the safe house.
But there is hardly anything like short trial, not when somebody pleads not guilty and therefore being in protective custody as a witness in a trial is always going to be for a lengthy period.
A person who has been in protective custody for a long time may have problems dealing with this situation. And this is why it is always best if before persons are placed in such custody they are told what to expect.
It is easy to understand the frustrations that can emerge when one is in protective custody and is kept for the greater part of the day indoors. It is easy to appreciate however why this is necessary. The frustration of not being allowed to make phone calls is also understandable, but so too are the restrictions for all it will take is one mistake for a witnesses location to be made known.
Despite the concerns that have been expressed by one person who has been kept in safe custody, there may be justification for restricting that person’s movements and interactions. It would in a small country like Guyana be very easy for that person to be tracked down and for his or her location to be determined.
As a poor country also, Guyana may not be able to afford luxury standards for witness protection. The persons concerned must recognize that they are being kept under protection for their own safety and in order to safeguard the integrity of the judicial process and therefore it is not going to be easy.
Understandably when trials are extended it places a great deal of pressure on both the authorities responsible for safeguarding witnesses as well as those enjoying the protection.
Witness protection is not cheap but as far as possible given the restrictions that are going to be placed on individual freedom, it is important that efforts be made to make all those in protective custody as comfortable as possible.
No one is asking for witnesses to be placed in five -star hotels but at least the basic necessities and some luxuries should be provided to compensate for the other restrictions which are usually in place.
More importantly, one expects those involved to behave in a professional manner. Protective custody is what it says it is. A person in such custody should feel safe and secure and should not have to endure certain distasteful and inappropriate comments.
There must also be strict security and confidentiality involved. Protective safe -houses must be manned by person trained for such purposes and there is also a need for more sensitivity to be shown to those in custody. This is why it may be helpful if social workers and other professionals are employed to undertake such protection since they will be able to help the witnesses through what is a difficult period.
It may also be appropriate for the army to be involved in these activities since its bases are normally well -secured and having persons in protective custody within these bases may allow for greater security than having them in civilian locations in a small society where there is a high risk of discovery and identification.
The witnesses may, in a base, enjoy less confinement than if simply kept in a safe house at some location.
It is however never going to be easy and therefore it is best that greater efforts be made to make witnesses as comfortable as possible.
This must entail having a senior and trusted social worker visit with the witness regularly to discuss their needs and to check how he or she is getting along in the programme.
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