The Guyana Prison Service (GPS) currently has the manpower of just over 500 officers. However, despite of this, it is still understaffed by 101. This is according to the Ministry of Finance mid-year report which was recently released.
While the report did not highlight the reason for the GPS being short staffed, it noted that there was a recruitment drive in the first half of this year which boosted its capacity.
Notwithstanding this, the report said, “To ensure that the Prison Service is staffed with qualified and competent officers, with the necessary skill set to allow them to effectively manage this complex environment, 24 new recruits were trained in the areas of supervision, correctional emergency response, leadership, and emergency medical procedures, among others.”
Recently, Director of Prison Gladwyn Samuels revealed that there were 2069 inmates distributed across the five prison facilities in Guyana, noting that the overall figure comprises 724 male convicted inmates between the ages of 18 and 35. These are namely the Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Mazaruni, Lusignan and Timehri prisons.
According to the mid-year report, “Some components for the rebuilding of the Camp Street prison, including steel cells, have already been procured, with works to begin in the second half. The expansion of the Mazaruni prison is ongoing and the project remains on track for completion in the second half of 2020.
These upgraded facilities are intended to alleviate the overcrowding situation across the prison system. The procurement of equipment intended to improve the safety of officers and inmates, including body scanners, has commenced and is expected to be concluded in the second half.”
Reports reveal that the issue of overcrowding is being addressed from all angles. These include, but are not limited to releasing offenders on parole, Presidential pardons for non-violent offenders and the greater use of alternative sentencing,
According to a report titled ‘Survey of Inmates in Guyana’, “the prisons have been faced with several problems such as shortage of resources, overcrowding, rising number of admissions and very precarious systems of information to effectively run the prison system. Overcrowding has been a major issue in the Guyana prison system. It was flagged by a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into a fire at the Camp Street Prison in 2017 which claimed the lives of 18 inmates.
The CoI report compiled by the commissioners had noted that a combination of overcrowding, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement is all ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent. Apart from that, a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) found that the overcrowding at Guyana’s prisons put inmates at risk of contracting contagious diseases.
Moreover, the Survey of Inmates in Guyana Report had found that, “Many prison directors and guards had a grasp on inmates´ daily lives; however such information was not systematised or readily available for other potential users. Moreover, many records within prisons were kept in old-fashioned books instead of computers.
The Guyana Prison Service, in delivering its mandate of ensuring safe custody and effective rehabilitation of inmates, was allocated approximately $4 billion towards the maintenance and improvement of the prison environment across the country.
The mid-year report disclosed that the designing the reconstruction of the New Amsterdam Prison will commence during the second half of this year. Once completed, it is expected that the Mazaruni Prison will house an additional 400 inmates.
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