…following brazen escape by 13
As if things weren’t bad enough, the security forces in Guyana are now under pressure to recapture six of 13 prisoners who escaped custody from the Lusignan Prison yesterday. These escapees are considered to be high-profile inmates and were housed in the commonly referred to ‘walled’ or ‘swamped’ area.
The names of the thirteen who escaped are: Rayon Jones, Pascal Smith, Teshawn McKenzie, Kendall Skeete, Clive Forde, Winston Long, Kerry Cromwell, Odel Roberts, Paul Goriah, Jamal Forde, Shawn Harris, Jason Howard and Jamal Joseph.
Smith, Forde, Cromwell, Skeete, Goriah and Harris are still at large
According to Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, during a press conference yesterday, it was discovered that the men were missing after a ‘tally’ of the prisoners was done Monday morning.
“As usual, we do what is called a tally where we check the locking-down numbers compared with what was there this (yesterday) morning. Having checked, they recognised that in the swamped area there was a difference in terms of the locking down figure and the figure they found when they checked. That resulted in a roll call being done in order to ascertain those persons who were not accounted for.”
The locking-down figure mentioned by Samuels was recorded at 16:00hrs on Sunday. He said that at that time, there were 99 prisoners in the swamped area, 104 in the new holding area and 136 in the Lusignan Prison.
“Based on what was reported to me, these prisoners were all accounted for, six hundred and thirty-five.”
However, the thirteen men managed to escape the prison during locking-down time and the tallying exercise on Monday morning. Regarding what specific time the men would have made their escape, the Prisons Director said that he believes that the men made their move between 01:00hrs and 02:30hrs when it rained heavily.
Questioned on what were the security arrangements at the time, he said there are three layers of security.
“We have security officers that are within the Lusignan Prison, they are also supposed to assist the police in the tower situated around the swamped area, the new holding area as well as the Lusignan Prison. The Guyana Defence Force, they provide what is called the outer cordon.”
Based on his direct observation of the swamped area, the prisoners made their escape in the vicinity of a make-shift toilet located in the north-eastern end of the holding area.
“What was revealed is that despite we would have provided the portable toilets, the prisoners, I am not sure if it was because of numbers or they were uncomfortable with the use of the portable toilets, but some of them resorted to using an area where the two fences come together like a ‘V’ and somewhere there in order to protect themselves from others seeing them when they are using the ‘toilet’ there was a zinc sheet erected. The digging of the hole occurred in the same vicinity.”
According to Samuels, the men dug a hole which led them under the fence and outside the perimeter of the holding area. He said that the depth of the hole was approximately five feet and measured the same in length.
“I guess because of the rain too, the mud was not as challenging as it should be and they managed to get below the foundation of the fence. Having arrived on the other part of the fence while we would have done some clearing there was some amount of grass likely to have provided some amount of coverage for them, but that is what has been observed on the ground.”
Samuels explained that in the same vicinity where the hole was dug stood a security tower. However, he is contending that the heavy rainfall might have prevented security officials from observing the prisoners executing their escape.
“There is a tower right there, as I said if this thing did occur during the rainy hours, despite us having lighting and so on in the area, there could have been a disruption of visibility but yes based on the detail there are persons mandated to be in the vicinity.”
Accompanying Samuels at the press briefing were Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and Acting Commissioner of Police, David Ramnarine. As it relates to steps being taken by the Guyana Police Force, Acting Commissioner Ramnarine informed the media that his organisation is working ‘double quick time’.
Moreover, Ramnarine said that there is a ‘confidence building’ operation to address the fear that is in society.
“This is from a joint perspective, police and soldiers; and then we have an arrangement in place which will respond to all these bits of information from across the country that we receive which will also be inclusive of the utilisation of the SWAT Unit; information which we are going to process into intelligence, we have received some bits of information, unfortunately none of those bits of information have proved to be helpful, but we respond to each one of them.”
The Acting Commissioner said that there are a number of collaborative mechanisms to support preventative mechanisms at the prisons.
Following the meeting of the National Security Council, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan said that decisions were made to have increased infrastructural work in the sense of more spotlights and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras.
As it relates to the remaining 86 prisoners in the ‘walled’ area they will be transferred to the Georgetown Prisons. He said that the location is good enough to house the inmates. However, an administrative building is yet to be set up to house administrative staff.
As a quick fix, the Minister said that a tent will be set up to accommodate the staff. Ramjattan said that efforts were underway to have the 86 prisoners transferred by the end of yesterday.
“It is a very tough decision, but knowing what has been transpiring, the things that have been going on there, their actions, some of their words that have been spoken, very serious messages, we gotta lock these people down, we have no other choice.”
The Minister said that the Mazaruni and New Amsterdam prisons are saturated and he would not want to send additional persons there to create a dangerous situation which can result in another prison riot.
“It is saturated and some of these guys are so bad that if they go there they can contaminate and so it is increasingly necessary that we go back to the brick prison which is okay but we won’t have an admin building, just a tent and get the staff members in it.”
The Minister appealed to persons having any relevant information to forward same to security officials so that quick action can be taken to apprehend those running from the law. The emergency numbers which persons can call are: 225-6411, 225-8196, 225-2227, 227-1149, 226-7065 or 911.
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