‘Cobra’ being kept in ‘humane, secure’ conditions

- prison service

High-profile prisoner Tyrone ‘Cobra’ Rowe is being kept in a “humane, safe and secure” manner, the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) assured yesterday.

Responding to concerns raised in the press by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), following a Kaieteur News report suggesting that Rowe was being kept in inhumane conditions in the Georgetown Prison, the GPS said in a statement that he and other high-profile prisoners have been isolated in special one-man cell units “for security reasons” in the “New Capital” building at the facility.

“His conditions of treatment and accommodation are of a humane, safe and secured nature,” it said, while noting that the New Capital building was designed to separate various categories of the remanded inmate population and those considered to be displaying “unusual” behaviour in fully self-contained and separate units.

“It must be pointed out that most of our high profile and special watch inmates are of an untried status hence cannot be transferred to the Mazaruni Prison which has facilities to safely and humanely accommodate such prisoners,” the GPS added.

Rowe, who is on remand on murder, armed robbery and damage to property charges, reportedly attacked a prison official recently with sharp implements.

Prisons Director Dale Erskine had told Stabroek News last week that he was being isolated from the prison population, explaining that he was being held in a one man cell so as to protect not only him but the rest of the prison population. He also noted that sometimes the prison has to protect a man from himself.

As a result of the Kaieteur News report, the GHRA said while Rowe was reportedly a disruptive influence among prisoners, it was the failure to complete the modernising of the Mazaruni Prison that has left the country with no specialised facility for high-risk prisoners, leaving the already over-crowded and under-staffed central prison to adopt makeshift and inhumane measures to contain them.

It also said that although the prison administration must be held to account, the conditions of prisons are a direct result of political factors which are extensively outside of the control of the GPS. It further called for the GPS to be allowed to function professionally, free from political monitoring and interference and their repercussions which undermine GPS performance, in order to sustain the Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners as the non-negotiable yardstick on which prisons should be administered.

The GPS statement yesterday, which was in response to the GHRA comments published by the Guyana Times’ under the headline “Prison Administration should be free from political interference –GHRA,” emphasized that the Prisons Administration as a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs is subjected by the laws of Guyana to the policy directions of the Minister of Home Affairs.

“The Prisons Directorate is not uncomfortable with those policy directions issued to the Directorate and enjoys a professional relationship with the Ministry of Home Affairs,” it said.

The GPS added that over the past few years, it has improved its delivery of services to the inmate population structurally, administratively and socially. “These conditions were as a direct result of the Ministry of HomeAffairs and the Prison Administration’s concerted efforts to improve the conditions across all prison locationsin Guyana in keeping with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules in the Treatment of Offenders,” it said, adding that a number of other projects are identified and approved for execution in order to make the prisons more safe, secured and humane for the inmate population in a sustained and strategic manner.

The current direction in which the prison service is developing, the GPS further said, would result into a modern and respected prison system in the near future, in keeping with its Strategic Development Plan 2010-2020, which it said sets out a complete plan for the reconstruction and renewal of the Guyana Prison Service.

The GHRA had also identified overcrowding in the prisons as the most significant factor in the quality of prison life and said that the “single most effective step” to rectifying the situation would be to empower the Prison Service to refuse to take any prisoners beyond the specific number that can be accommodated to the standard minimum conditions on the budget for prisons. It also urged the revitalising of Visiting Committees for all prisons and for a review of the catalogue of specific reforms generated from the various research, reports and retreats, including the Disciplined Services Commission Report, aimed at reforming prisons.

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