Mar 29, 2016 News
As the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the incident which claimed the lives of 17 prisoners when a fire broke out at the Camp Street Prison on March 3 continues, those who have served time behind bars before are expressing their
willingness to come forward with their stories.
One such person is Vickram Budram, an ex-convict, who served more than 15 years at the Georgetown and Mazaruni Prisons for manslaughter.
Budram a farmhand of Parika Backdam, East Bank Essequibo, is advocating to the authorities for former prisoners to be given an opportunity to testify about their experiences in the prisons. After spending four years on remand at the Camp Street jail and the next 15 years behind bars at Mazaruni, the ex-con believes that half has not been told about life behind bars.
Budram alleges that there are numerous unreported riots, acts of physical and sexual assault imposed on prisoners by officers, undeserved random acts of punishment meted out on prisoners and other hideous crimes committed within the confines of the prison that are yet to come to light.
Given these circumstances, the ex-prisoner believes that these stories can only be beneficial to the COI which must make recommendations for the reform of the system.
“I willing fuh share me information because people does get sent to prison to get better but sometimes the prison system mek them worse or even cause dem to lose dem life.”
Budram is not the only ex-inmate who has come forward with a willingness to present evidence before the COI.
Last week, a woman who served time in the Berbice State Prison, also called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the female sections of the prisons.
The Commission of Inquiry was launched as a result of a fire which broke out at Capital A of the Camp Street Prisons. Seventeen prisoners died as a result of the riot and several others were injured. As a result President David Granger ordered that a COI be launched into the occurrence. The activity is expected to yield information that will assist in the reformation of the prison system.
The COI has been tasked with investigating the circumstances leading up to the fatal Camp Street fire, including the role and functioning of authorities in the prison. Last week, prisoners who have testified before Commissioners former Judge James Patterson, the Chairman, former Director of Prisons Dale Erskine and human rights activist, Merle Mendonca, recalled that a number of fires have occurred at the prison within recent times.
Collis Collison, 23, an inmate of the Georgetown Prisons told the Commission of Inquiry, (COI) that at least three fires were started at the prisons within two days. He testified that the prisoners were being searched when the fires were started.
Another prisoner, Steve Bacchus, an inmate of old Capital block at the Camp Street Prison testified that there were desperate cries for help, dead bodies, and even the headless remains of a fellow inmate discovered after the fire.
He told the panel of Commissioners that when the fire broke out, he heard his fellow inmates yelling, “Leave the man alone.”
The noise, he said, was coming from the prison yard. The witness recounted that he ran towards the back of the building, and peered outside. He said that he saw a prisoner, Collis Collision, being assaulted in the yard of the State Penitentiary by Prison officers.
The witness stated that prison officers along with at least four police officers had been standing in the middle of the tarmac. He said that some of the officers were armed. He claimed that it appeared as though the prisoners were being assaulted by the officers.
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