…best we can do is train officers
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, yesterday said that there are financial constraints that prevent the separation of vulnerable inmates from the rest of the prison population as recommended by best practice.
The Minister made the disclosure while addressing the opening ceremony of the Handling Vulnerable Prisoners training programme for prison and police officers sponsored by the United Kingdom Government held at the Felix Austin Police College.
Following the 2016 fire at the Camp Street Prison, retired Justice James Patterson headed a Commission of Inquiry which recommended that vulnerable inmates be separated.
“The Good commissioner did indicate that there should be some infrastructure works that ought to be done so they could be separated or even housed in different places, but in the context of very difficult financial times the best that could be done is that at least the training of officers to take care of these vulnerable prisoners is especially important in the context of them being housed with the regular prisoners,” Ramjattan stated.
Minister Ramjattan also mentioned the lack of proper knowledge on the part of prison officers to be able to identify these vulnerable persons.
Emphasizing the need for the training, the Minister noted that sometimes the prison staff is totally unaware of the special needs and the requirements for special treatment.
“Having found that indeed there is a need for a special treatment for vulnerable prisoners; the best that could be done is at least the training of officers to take care of these vulnerable prisoners. This is especially important, especially in the context where they are housed with the regular prisoners,” Ramjattan said.
According to Acting Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, there are 75 inmates that are mentally unstable and considered vulnerable. Most of them were housed at the Camp Street Prison until the July 2017 fire.
Authorities were forced to spread them around different facilities. He stated that most of the inmates should not be in prison because they require specialised treatment.
“There are some persons who are naturally weak in terms of their muscular development and some of them in terms of their mind so when they are in prison the possibility of them being easily manipulated or forced to do things that are not right is quite possible and that is why the role of prison officers are so important in terms of ensuring those persons who are deemed venerable are not taken advantage of,” Samuels stated.
Acting UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Ron Rimmer, said that the training is born out of a request from President David Granger to include the prison sector in the UK sponsored Security Sector Reform Review.
“The training will also help the British High Commission fulfill its consular responsibility to any British national who may be imprisoned in Guyana,” Rimmer stated.
Trinidadian Caroline Ravello, Director of “CreateBetterMinds”, is one of the facilitators for the one-week training programme. She is assisted by UK consultant, Michael Hamilton.
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