Latest update June 2nd, 2023 12:49 AM
Sep 07, 2017 Editorial, Features / Columnists
Two months after the burning down of the Camp Street prison, the government has one again gone silent on the issue as it did last year after the worst prison riot in the country and in the Caribbean. That event claimed seventeen lives.
The insurrections at the Camp Street prison last year and this year should send a strong message to the authority that all is not well with the prisoners and that leaving them to rot in jail is not an option. It has also clearly demonstrated that the prison system needs urgent reform.
There is an urgent need for a new prison to house the increasing number of inmates. There is no point at this stage for anyone to lecture the public about crime and criminality or prison reform when authority continues to ignore reality.
Truth be told, Guyana needs two new state-of-the-art prisons to house its male and female prisoners. The living conditions at the existing facilities have been described as deplorable.
Several recommendations to build a new prison have been ignored by governments.
The idea of building a new prison on the outskirts of Georgetown to replace the almost two centuries’ old Camp Street prison has been bandied about for decades but the political will remains lacking. The Camp Street prison has been deemed outdated by local and international standards. The harsh conditions under which the inmates are forced to live have turned many into rabid animals. Some ex-convicts have admitted that they have become hardened criminals by being incarcerated in an overcrowded prison environment.
The Camp street prison was built to accommodate fewer than half of those it held when it went up in flames. Not only is a new prison needed, but the government must implement serious reforms to make it more humane for prisoners, despite the fact that most of the citizens do have very little sympathy for criminals.
As things stand, the government is now constructing modern prison facilities at Mazaruni, the best possible location for a prison in Guyana. Mazaruni has the space.
Studies have shown that a key element of an effective crime-reduction strategy is a prison system that focuses on reform rather than solely incarceration. Prison reform could help to maintain social stability and enhance human development growth, but it would require fundamental changes to the prison system.
Included in the programmes should be life training skills, job training, entrepreneurship, goal setting, conflict resolution, anger management and education, among others.
Providing a safe prison environment and proper health care to prisoners should be a priority for the authority. Incarceration should not only be to deny prisoners of their freedom or restrict their movement, it should also afford them the opportunity to study, work or learn a trade in order to make it easier for them to re-adjust to society upon their release.
Incarceration should not mean prisoners are absolved from social responsibilities either. They should be allowed to work in order to take care of their existence and thus free the state from granting public assistance to them. Incarceration should not be only about retribution and revenge; it should be about helping those who have transgressed to change and to accept societal norms and values.
Therefore building a new prison with modern, high-tech crime-fighting equipment and a rehabilitation centre would help to make prisoners become productive. All able-bodied men and women, even though confined, should have the opportunity to contribute to society.
This is what Guyana is seeking to at Mazaruni—build a modern prison.
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I pray that the new prison which is being built at Mazaruni,will indeed provide all the means to rehabilitate the incarcerated. I have a lot of faith in young people,regardless. They are very hyped with ambitions at that stage of their life but there are so many destructive elements which can impact negatively on fragile young minds. A lot of us who are older now could have gone astray.