It is the brazen boast of prisoners that there is nothing that cannot be had behind the prison walls whether it is illegal or not.
Then there is the conviction that most of the contraband found within the walls of the prison are smuggled in or facilitated by the prison officials themselves.
It is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Home Affairs is concerned about the reports of illegal drugs and other paraphernalia entering the prison locations by inmates, prison officers and civilians who attempt to smuggle them through the gates.
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee during his end of year briefing last Wednesday, told a packed audience at the Police Officers’ Training Centre that his Ministry has a zero tolerance for this scourge and as such those who were caught with illegal goods, be it drugs, cigarettes or other items, did not escape the Court.
In 2014, due to diligence on the part of the Prison Administration, there was an increase in the detection of cases and four Prison Officers were charged and placed before the Court while three others were charged departmentally.
In October last year, an ex-prison officer Akeem Vyphuis, who smuggled cannabis into the Georgetown Prisons for inmates, was sent to join them for 56 months after he was found guilty by city Magistrate Judy Latchman.
The officer was found to be carrying a package containing 279 grammes of marijuana valued at $139,500 at the Camp Street facility.
Three civilians were also placed before the Court – one is presently serving two years for attempting to smuggle cartridges into prison and two were sentenced with the option of paying a fine.
Most of these activities occur at the main prison facility in Georgetown and this is despite the stringent measures that the authorities have been putting in place to prevent them.
Items such as marijuana, cigarettes and even liquor, which somehow end up in the prison, could fetch 10-times the actual retail price, and according to a source, there is no shortage of money to purchase them.
It is said that many inmates actually take care of their families by conducting illegal business from behind bars.
According to the Home Affairs Minister, in order to beef up the security infrastructure, cameras, monitors and electronic scanners were installed at all prison locations and were complemented by regular body searches of both inmates and officers.
“Regular searches at the locations by Prison Officers and members of the Joint Prison/Police teams were carried out to address breaches in the security system,” the Minister said.
But despite major seizures of illegal items, replacements somehow find themselves back in the cells as soon as the searches are over.
The Minister said that security efforts aimed at eliminating the problem will continue in 2015.
He highlighted that $298M was allocated to the Guyana Prison Service for its Capital Prgaramme.
Of this sum, $212M was spent on building projects including the construction of the Brick Prison, Trade Shops and the Lusignan Prison, which has been identified as a correction facility particularly for young offenders.
Rohee stated that much emphasis will be placed also on training for officers and ranks, corrections and the rehabilitation of the prison, in keeping with the Service’s Strategic Plan.
Meanwhile, Rohee announced that the Strategic Management Department of the Guyana Prison Service was established and the vacancies for Technical Officer – Prisons Management, Technical Officer – Planning, Research and Mobilization and Senior Policy Analyst were filled. There is one other vacancy to be filled and according to the Minister this will be done soon.
Members of the Department made visits to the various Prison locations, held discussions with the Prisons Directorate and other senior officers and are now developing plans for their respective areas of responsibility.
In 2013 the Ministry established a Standing Orders Committee to develop Standing Orders for the Guyana Prison Service.
Work was completed in 2014 and 43 Standing Orders were developed which will guide Officers and ranks in respect of their conduct in the execution of their duties.
“In fact these Orders have laid down the rules and operational procedures by which the Guyana Prison Service is governed,” the Home Affairs Minister stated.
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