The report into the Commission of Inquiry (COI) has noted that other arms of the administration of Justice undermine the efforts of the Guyana Prison Service, (GPS) when they fail to fulfill their own obligations to the penal system.
The report said that the Judiciary, Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Police Force, Probation Service and Visiting Committee are all guilty of this in one way or another.
“Reform of the GPS alone will not guarantee creation of a dynamic, efficient and fair penal system. Each institution struggles in isolation to make piecemeal improvements in its own delivery system without systematic consultation or cooperation among the group as a whole.”
“Nor do existing statutory bodies such as the Police Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission, operating in isolation, have a track record of effective cross-discipline cooperation.”
According to the report countering the institutional weaknesses of Guyana’s penal system, requires a mechanism to mobilize the political and technical co-operation in a collaborative manner, to provide Guyana with a modern, fair and efficient correctional programme.
For this reason the COI made a special recommendation for creation of a mechanism charged with the sole responsibility of creating a plan to reduce prison over-crowding and to maintain a sustainable intake in the future.
“The Prison directorate in Guyana does not enjoy the powers of their counterparts in some parts of the United States where overcrowding is addressed by empowering the Prison Director to commence a process of release of prisoners starting with those closest to their release dates.”
“These powers are linked to budgetary allocations for food and maintenance of decent standards as required by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. These are the most authoritative international standards governing the quality of life in prison.”
The COI also recommended creation of a High Level Committee comprising the Guyana Prison Service and representatives of the agencies referred to above, under the chairperson of a dynamic individual capable of generating the institutional momentum, support and resources required to resolve over-crowding in prisons.
As a mechanism geared to encourage institutional cooperation with a clear focused mandate, the proposed High Level Committee would be a contribution to evolving governance in Guyana. Underlying all of the current ills of the penal system is a sense of no one exercising ownership of the process.
Success in this limited mandate would lay the foundation for determining the shape and mandate of a more permanent Prisons Inspectorate Unit as a component of a modern principled approach to penal policy.
“In this respect the Trinidad & Tobago Prison Inspectorate merits careful examination with a view to emulating its major feature,” the report outlined.
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