As 38 new prison officers graduated yesterday, Minister of Public Secu-rity, Khemraj Ramjattan charged them “to keep a proper balance between security and control and humanity and justice.”
Speaking at the Cecil Kilkenny Training School in Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, Ramjattan said, “a lot of people sometimes feel that it is just taking on a job after the recruitment training but it is lots more than that.” He said that based on the programme and the various topics that would’ve have been taught to the students they would’ve not only had a basic level preparation course for prison life, but also preparation for the large community.
“So I congratulate the effort of having stayed on. It’s about keeping a proper balance between security and control and humanity and justice and these are very vital for a public service that is as vital in the public security sector,” he said, pointing out that it will be the recruits’ duty to not only ensure that the prisoners are kept in custody but also maintain order, control and a disciplined environment for the prisoners and themselves.
Prison security and the extent of training of officers came into sharp focus in May this year after prolonged unrest at the main Camp Street prison resulted in a fire that killed 17 prisoners. An ensuing Commission of Inquiry heard testimony about poor conditions at the prison and complaints about the conduct of wardens.
Ramjattan pointed out that once a safe and ordered environment is maintained then it translates into a safe country that can see economic developments. “There are very far- reaching effects. People would want to come to Guyana knowing it’s a safe place. People would want to invest in Guyana knowing that it is safe and all of that directly and indirectly ensures a better and more prosperous country,” Ramjattan said.
He admitted that since the Prison Officers corps is some 150 short they will have to undertake the difficult task of making up for the shortage. “I am concerned every day and night about that. It’s a similar situation with our police force and of course the salary is not very high and the conditions of the prison is not the best,” he said, stating that while the task at hand is difficult, better days will come when the economy will do better.
He encouraged the students to continue learning and not let the graduation be the end, but the starting of their long journey ahead.
Rodlyn Jack, who was awarded for being the best student, gave a report on the course that had started on July 11th. Jack also charged her fellow recruits to do their best in their upcoming careers and to emulate the perfect prison officer who she described as being disciplined, respectful, ethical, committed and dedicated.
While the course was an uplifting one she pointed out that the batch had experienced some difficulties which they hope will be rectified in time for the next set of recruits. She pointed out that there was a poor water supply, the classroom was not conducive to learning as it was often hot because of the lack of fans and a cooling system and there were also complaints from her colleagues about the quality of the meals. She recommended that there also be a new course vehicle, renovation to the building, the repairing of damaged windows and the building of a security hut.
Chief Prison Officer David Shepherd explained that the concerns had been taken into consideration and a new bus is already being sourced. He said that because of the financial constraints the school has been forced to endure the current conditions.
He also pointed out that a number of fans and other equipment had been secured by the Ministry.