Private sector hammers gov’t over ‘slow’ prison reform

-in aftermath of Camp St revolt

While lauding the performance of the security forces during Sunday’s revolt at the Camp Street prison, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) yesterday flayed the government for not doing enough to act on the recommendations made after last year’s inquiry into a similar insurrection and called for more information to be made public.

In a statement, the PSC said that it was disappointed that much of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the March 3rd  2016 rising, in which 17 inmates died, were not implemented and monies allocated by the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Public Security remained unspent.

It urged Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and his Ministry and the Cabinet to do more and recommended the following actions  be taken.

  1. Immediately fast track the modification of the Mazaruni Prison.
  2. The facilities in Georgetown should be for prisoners awaiting trial only.
  3. Ensure more civil society leaders are placed on prison-related boards.
  4. Immediately look at working conditions for prison officers.
  5. Push the Judiciary harder to catch up on backlogs.
  6. Consider privatizing the prison system.
  7. Review proposals for the establishment of a half-way house in the rehabilitative process.
Khemraj Ramjattan

“We are sure that the responsible Minister is aware of what else should be done. We need to get it done faster.

“We urge the Government of Guyana to ensure that by the re-capturing of the dangerous prisoners that are on the loose, that the stability of our society is ensured. Simultaneously we urge the citizens to report any and all suspicious incidents to the Guyana Police Force”, the PSC stated.

It said that a recurrence of Sunday must not be repeated. The PSC said it holds the Government  accountable and asked that top priority be given to prison reform.

The PSC offered condolences to the family of Prison officer Odinga Wickham who was killed by the rioting prisoners and asked Guyanese to remember the injured prison staff and prisoners in their prayers.

“We wish to thank the officers and ranks of the Guyana Prison Service who single handedly and alone battled the raging inferno and revolting prisoners before reinforcements of police began to arrive at the Georgetown prisons”, the PSC said.

The ranks of the Guyana Fire Service also need to be commended, it added,  “for their brave efforts at fighting the raging inferno in the prison compound while facing off violent attacks by the revolting prisoners”.

It also thanked the Army and Police for their successful efforts at the containment of what it said could have been a larger disaster.

The PSC added that it has taken note of the reported events that led up to the fire at the Camp Street Prison and the resultant state of fear and apprehension that now exists in the society.

It said that over many years the PSC and its affiliates have followed with disappointment the slow pace of implementing measures to mitigate the results of a slow court system, the commingling of remand and other prisoners with serious crime prisoners and other factors that have led to the present situation.

It contended that the deterioration of the prison system was not paid enough attention to by the country’s political leaders generally over time.

The PSC called on the government  to declare fully the identities of persons being granted bail and those being released in any way together with histories and other information and also for the police to monitor wherever possible these persons.

It also appealed to the authorities to “publish the true and accurate count of prisoners held prior to the incident, the amount transferred and the unaccounted prisoners. The lack of accurate official information has created much room for speculation and is fueling fear in our society.” It also expressed consternation at the reported statement by  Ramjattan that “when you are going to serve a five year term——-If you are of good behaviour, you can get some remission from me. I can give you as the Minister and the authority.”(Guyana Chronicle July 10th). The PSC said that having sought legal advice it is of the view that the Minister is not empowered to do so and that this statement should be corrected.

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