In the face of last evening’s massive prison break, questions have been raised about the recommendations made following last year’s prison unrest which led to the fiery death of 17 prisoners.
These recommendations were made by a Commission of Inquiry, (COI) which was ordered by President David Granger following the deadly prison break. The activity would have cost the State some $13 million.
The Head of State had expressed optimism that Guyana will not suffer a recurrence of what was described as the worst prison riot in the nation’s history. Consequentially, Granger ordered that a high level meeting between members of the Judiciary and of the Executive.
The officials were ordered to examine services geared towards providing alleviating overcrowding at the prisons and rehabilitation of the inmates.
However, it is unclear whether any actions were taken towards addressing these deficiencies or implementing the COI recommendations.
Among other things, the COI report said that the State should consider the removal of the Georgetown Prisons from the centre of the city.
The report also highlighted a number of infrastructural deficiencies, including the non-completion of the new Brickdam Prison which has placed unnecessary burden on the overcrowded Georgetown Prisons.
Recommendations were made for the complete construction of the new prison at Lusignan and upgrading the Mazaruni Prison facilities to improve the prison holding capacity.
According to the document, “This prison has the capacity to house an additional 250 prisoners.”
The commission also noted the archaic state in which food in the prison is prepared.
The report said that infrastructure for cooking quality food is grossly unsatisfactory and notwithstanding the food may be palatable, the manner in which it is prepared with fire wood will always be a recipe for protests by prisoners.
Additionally, proposals were made for Capital A Block to be renovated and be named ‘Centre of Learning and Reconciliation” for prisoners.
“It should have a good library with appropriate technology and other supporting material to aid inmates to develop themselves,” the document stated.
“Enhance the structure and equipment at the Cecil Kilkenny Prison Officers’ Training School at Lusignan to create a receptive learning environment for prison officers.”
The Commission also proposed a review of the internal walls of high security blocks to avoid prisoners breaking through them. It also proposed a more effective system of lighting in dormitories to be introduced to avoid tampering and turning off of lights by prisoners in divisions.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Commission Justice Winston Patterson stressed that concerns were specifically raised about the issue of overcrowding at the Camp Street prison.
Justice Patterson said that the government would need to urgently address the problem.
The retired judicial officer also noted that the administration should pay more attention to reformation services offered to inmates.
“When they come out they must be able to earn something. To alleviate the crowding aspect, we would want it to be considered as urgent, the improvement of physical and social facilities. We were concerned about the overcrowding and that concern is immediate. We want it done like yesterday,” Patterson asserted.
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