Apr 25, 2016 News
There are a number of critical issues affecting Guyana’s prison system, one of which includes overcrowding at the Georgetown Prisons. To deal with this, President David Granger said that a plan to have some persons transferred from there to the Mazaruni Prison is in the works.
He revealed this during a recent taping of the show, the Public Interest.
Kaieteur news understands that already some inmates from the camp street facility have been sent to Berbice.
The Head of State said that the problems of the prison service and the system are chronic. He recalled that about 18 years ago, there was a massive riot at the Mazaruni Prison and several buildings were burned down.
The President noted that over the years, there have been escapes and the most infamous was the Mashramani escape in 2002. He said, “And prisoners would go on the roof and stuff would be thrown into the prisons.”
With this background in mind, the Head of State said that there are some major problems facing the three main prisons in Guyana, namely New Amsterdam, Georgetown and Mazaruni.
Granger noted that these prisons were all constructed over 125 years ago in the reign of Queen Victoria. He said that they are inadequate for the number of prisoners today; especially the Georgetown Prison which he opined is probably carrying three times the amount it ought to have.
The President said, “Now the problems will not be resolved unless there is a massive deployment of prisoners from Georgetown to Mazaruni which has the space and it (the Mazaruni Prison) could be reinforced and fortified.”
Granger said that another big problem is the staff. He said that arrangements have been put in place for the Ministry of Public Security to conduct more training sessions for the staff of the prison services.
With regard to overcrowding in prisons, Granger said that this is a consequence of the criminal justice system.
He expressed, “The prison service really doesn’t have control over that. If the Magistrate or Judge remands somebody, then the Prison Service is obliged to keep that person. So as you know, there has been an engagement between the Executive branch and judicial branch to examine sentencing policy to ensure that custodial sentences or perhaps remands or the denial of bail would be reviewed so that there is no build up of persons in the prisons, particularly the Georgetown Prison.”
Granger recalled that the Chancellor Carl Singh, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo as well as other judicial officers were at that meeting.
The President said that it is important for issues such as the capacity and condition of the prisons, the lack of staff and their quality as well as the sentencing policy to be discussed.
Reflecting on some of the notorious prison breaks in Guyana, Granger expressed that many of the persons who protested on the roofs of the prisons and did escape were in fact on remand.
He added, “…And there is evidence that a large amount of contraband items had been taken into the prisons such as cigarettes, ganja, metal weapons and cell phones, people have Facebook accounts and it is impossible for that level of trafficked contraband to occur without a level of complicity of a few rogue officers.”
The Head of State continued, “It is a problem and it has existed for a long time but …the problems cannot be dealt with unless we deal with these issues that I mentioned.”
The President said that the situation at the Camp Street Prisons is stable and reaching a level of normalcy. He noted however that there is still a need to provide greater security at the Mazaruni Prison.
“We have also implemented some plans which saw prisoners being transferred to that prison after the March riot (at the Georgetown Prison which saw the death of 17 prisoners).”
Granger then recalled his visit to the Mazaruni Prison in March and noted that his Government has already initiated some plans for the transfer of some prisoners from Georgetown to the Mazaruni Prison.
He noted however that money has to be provided to build new blocs there but situation is nonetheless approaching normalcy and stability.
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