The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recommended the use of rehabilitation programmes to reduce the high prison population in Guyana.
According to a recent report, ‘Caribbean Justice Report: A Needs Assessment Of The Judicial System in Nine Countries’, there is a lack of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which sees matters being settled in a cheaper and faster way without resorting to the courts.
This resolution welcomes a neutral third party who assists these individuals in working through their disputes. The disputes are usually settled without public trial and offer better rehabilitation and promising results.
In their report, the UNDP also flagged Guyana for being heavily dependent on custodial sentencing, particularly for persons charged with petty offenses.
These offenses include non-violent and petty crimes including minor drug possession, petty theft, traffic infractions, among other things.
In the same report, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in support for the Criminal Justice System, also noted that custodial sentences for persons charged with non-violent and petty offenses is a major cause for the increase in Guyana’s prison population.
The UNDP report highlighted that there are five prison facilities in Guyana where more than 2,000 inmates were being housed, up to the end of 2019.
It was pointed out that the deadly fire at the main prison at Camp Street in 2017 contributed significantly to the overcrowding issues.
In light of expansions at the Mazaruni Prison in Region Seven which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, the UNDP said it still believes that rehabilitation is necessary for lowering the prison populations and improving accommodation.
The UNDP has since recommended the use of rehabilitation programmes, which promotes re-integration into society.
These programmes may include vocational workshops (that teach vital trade skills), soft skills, and follow-ups by parole officers to ensure that relapses are minimized.
The organization also said that based on their observations, promising results were shown with the use of this system even though there were cases of relapse.
Based on Guyana Prison Service, in 2017 some 254 males and 11 females relapsed into the prison system.
In 2018, there were 306 males and 19 females while last year, 197 males and four females.
It was indicated that the majority of these cases stemmed from having little to no proper reintegration programme into society.
Reports from the Guyana Prison Services also stated that at the end of 2019, there were 1,015 males and 45 females on remand.
In giving the reason for that, the UNDP stated that the overuse of pre-trial detention, lack of legal counsel, lack of training and resources for prosecutors and case overload at magistrates’ courts contributed to the high number of persons on remand.
The UNDP believes that if more effort is placed into rehabilitation systems, Guyana can benefit from more space in the prisons, a decrease in spending, and more ex-convicts being reintegrated into society without relapsing.
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