Cabinet has approved the contract for the construction of six living quarters at
the Mazaruni Prisons of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS).
This was according to the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, yesterday during the Post-Cabinet Press Briefing in Georgetown.
The contract which was allocated in two lots, saw one lot attracting $41,127,930. That contract has been awarded to N&A Construction. The other lot has attracted $35, 820,000, and awarded to A.A.V Raghubeer General Construction.
Minister Harmon told media operatives that the 2017 Budget contains allocation for the Mazaruni Prisons.
He also spoke about the dire need to construct these quarters as he referenced a visit to the facility by the President of Guyana, David Granger; the Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; and himself some months ago.
The visit he said revealed several issues with regards to the living quarters of Prison Officers.
“We had a good look at the conditions and what we discovered was that the living quarters for those prison officers, were in a deplorable state and needed attention.
“As soon as the prison officers go off of duty, they were going home. It costs them about $10,000 every time they had to travel.
“So if you look at the salary of a prison officer and the fact that he needs to go home and check with his family and so on, we needed to do something to ensure that the conditions under which these officers live are improved,” the Minister said.
Cabinet, just a few weeks ago, had also agreed to the establishment of a Steering Committee for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-approved US$8 million Criminal Justice System Project.
This project is aimed at assisting Guyana to overcome prison overcrowding, by reducing pre-trial detentions and increasing the use of alternative sentencing, among other measures.
The Committee will comprise representatives of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Supreme Court of Judicature, the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ministry of Public Security, the Social Protection Ministry, and the Ministry of Finance.
The Committee will provide oversight and strategic direction and recommendations, and ensure the coordination of the programme of activities with those of the various Government offices that will be affected by its implementation.
The IDB website states that the loan objective is to contribute meaningfully to addressing the high concentration of the prison population in the country, which stands at 256 per 100,000 of the national population, well above the world average of 146 per 100,000.
The IDB stated: “The Guyanese criminal justice system ‘tends to use incarceration as the default sanction. However, high rates of imprisonment have been associated with an individual’s future proclivity for crime and difficulties in securing employment, among other negative factors. Building or expanding prison facilities can be a short-term fix for overcrowding, but if root causes are not addressed, the new facilities will eventually be filled”.
The project is divided into two components. The first seeks to reduce the use of pre-trial detention, especially for individuals accused of minor offences. The idea is to provide better legal assistance to individuals accused of non-violent offences, improve the prosecutors’ ability to handle cases according to the seriousness of the offence, strengthen the judiciary, and design and implement a restorative justice programme.
The second component seeks to increase the use of alternative sentencing by the criminal justice system in Guyana. This includes strengthening the country’s legal drafting functions, modernizing probation services and implementing a pilot project at the Magistrate Court level to apply alternatives to imprisonment to non-violent offenders.
The programme is designed to complement a previously approved citizen security programme targeting high crime neighbourhoods.
The US$8 million loan is divided into two parts. US$4M dollars is financed via the IDB’s ordinary capital, has a 30-year amortization period and an interest rate based on Libor. The remaining US$4 million is through the IDB’s subsidized lending arm. It has a 40-year amortization period and a fixed interest rate of 0.25 percent.
The State currently spends approximately $485,000 on one prisoner per year at the Camp Street penitentiary. This amounts to $1,329 per day. Repeat offenders have increased by over 100 percent .This, was disclosed in the findings of the recent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Camp Street prison riot that claimed 17 lives following a fire on March 3, 2016.
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