GHRA blames Judiciary, prison service for prison riot

first_imgThe Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has expressed deep concern over Monday’s prison break and riot which left several wounded and three escapees still on the run.The GHRA said the ‘slackness’ associated with the recent escape of three inmates has to be laid at the door of the Guyana Prison Service itself and Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels.“At the end of the day, however, the effective management of prisoners requires cooperation from a number of agencies over which the Prison Service itself exercises no authority,” he said.The Association noted that despite considerable efforts by the Prison Service to reduce the numbers of inmates, their work continues to be frustrated by too many prisoners’ remanded.This is mainly for trivial offences or people being unable to pay bail. “Responsibility for this problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the Judiciary – the magistracy in particular,” it said.Nevertheless, GHRA noted that by the end of 2017, targeted reductions recommended after the disastrous fire at the Camp Street had largely been achieved by the prisons through early releases, weeding out the mentally ill, and others who should never have been in prison in the first instance.However, it claimed that the benefit of these efforts has been lost as Magistrates complacently acquiesce to prosecutor’s demands. “Reduction of the prison population can also be achieved by greater efforts to work with substance abusers and those mentally affected by drug abuse.”In terms of the remand issue, the GHRA said Prison Service has to rely on the cooperation of services over which it has no direct control for this kind of support in getting the numbers down.“The long-term solution to our prison problems are preventative rather than punitive. Private Sector concerns over the conditions of prisons is a welcome development,” it added.The GHRA said directing these energies towards provision of jobs and better coordinated job-training programmes for inmates would ease the burden on the over-stretched Guyana Prison Service.Just recently, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) wrote a letter to Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan where it said it was becoming increasingly concerned by a number of issues affecting the prisons in Guyana and, by virtue of this, public safety in the country.“A recent meeting of the Management Board of the Prisons has highlighted a number of serious matters which we feel should be addressed with utmost urgency. Issues brought to the fore include a general lack of adequate security at all of the prisons, a lack of fire prevention systems, the lack of transportation facilities to enable movement of prisoners and food, where necessary, and the inadequacy of the current complement of prisons to safely house the prison population,” the PSC in its letter to the subject Minister highlighted.Moreover, the Commission said while it is concerned about the safety and security of the public, “it is also disturbed by the less than humane conditions under which the prison population at the Lusignan Prison is housed. These prisoners are made to sleep under sheds in the open, posing health risks to the prisoners and a danger to the wardens. We are of the opinion that these conditions could also have an impact upon the country’s human rights ranking.”Another burning issue, the PSC said, is the lack of fire prevention systems in the prisons, most of which are constructed of wood.The Commission said it is concerned that, after two devastating prison fires, resulting in loss of lives and the escape of dangerous criminals, enough is not being done to prevent further fires. Outlining that the issues will require short and long-term solutions, the PSC posited in its letter to Ramjattan that the “vexed question of internal security is one that is hampering investor confidence and one that must be prioritised by our Government. We are, therefore, confident that you will utilise your good office to address this particular aspect of our security.”last_img