By Desilon Daniels
The Guyana Prison Service has launched an investigation into the alleged beating of a prisoner after he set a mattress on fire in order to draw attention to his medical condition.
Director of Prisons Welton Trotz told Stabroek News that the internal investigation into the accusations levelled against a number of guards at the Camp Street prison is underway.
Calvin Bailey was admitted to prison in 2007, accused of murdering an 18-month-year-old child. He is currently awaiting a retrial after his last trial ended with a hung jury. He was reportedly asthmatic since childhood.
In a recording, Bailey explained that his illness had made prison life much more difficult, especially when he was placed in solitary confinement.
On May 10, Bailey said, he had been placed in solitary confinement “for security reasons” and had made multiple requests to be removed due to his asthma. However, his requests were reportedly ignored. “I told them that I needed to see the chief or get medical attention because I wasn’t breathing well,” he said.
Bailey explained that in an attempt to gain attention he lit the mattress. “That’s when they start coming in a drove to the strong cell,” he said, while noting that all the while he was calling out for attention.
He said that he was beaten with batons by about eight officers. He added that he was also beaten by another prisoner. He maintained that the fire had been very small and had caused no damage. He, in turn, suffered two fractures to his right arm and one to his left.
However, Director Trotz denied that Bailey had been placed in solitary confinement but he revealed that guards are allowed to exercise some form of force in such cases. Trotz, however, said that he was unaware of any claims of Bailey being beaten by prison guards.
When questioned about provisions made for prisoners suffering from some form of illness or disease, Trotz explained that special conditions are laid aside. However, he said, “If you misbehave, you have to be treated the way you misbehave for.” He continued, “So if he needed to be placed within solitary confinement, then he must be placed there, even with his asthma.”
Atmosphere of fear
Pearl Bailey, the mother of Calvin, is far from satisfied with the harsh treatment that she believes has been meted out to her son.
Since his return to prison last week Tuesday, Pearl explained that her son is being ill-treated. Now, she said, he has no mattress to sleep on.
Activist Mark Benschop, who helped the woman bring her son’s plight to the light, said there is a need for the matter to be properly dealt with before it escalates further.
Benschop, who had been imprisoned at the facility until he received a pardon, said, “I’m hoping that those who are responsible, especially those officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs, can take these concerns very seriously”.
According to Pearl, she had been contacted several times to not have the matter publicised. Benschop stated that the requests are typical of prison officers.
“Oftentimes what you have happen is that the officers would love to cover up and they have given their version of what has happened and in doing so they attempt to cover up,” he said. “When you check Calvin’s side of the story with the officials’ side, you can see that something is not adding up with what the officials want us to know.”
Benschop also opined that there is an atmosphere of fear surrounding cases such as Calvin’s.
“When a situation like this happens, family of those in the prison are afraid to come and expose the ills that are happening there because they feel that if they do, their relatives in there will be penalized. And these sort of things need to stop.”
Benschop also noted that those inside are not the only ones to be penalized. “They also penalize those who are going to visit or who are going to take some sort of support,” he said.
Pearl agreed and said that since the incident, she had suffered victimisation as well. Pearl also said that she is waiting on official word on any launched investigations.