Government has decided that the best governance structure for a modernized prison system would be for it to be state run with a Board of Governors, according to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan who revealed on Thursday that this was one of four proposed options.
The other options proposed by International Management Consultants, a Jamaica-based firm following the completion of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into last year’s prison riot, which claimed the lives of 17 prisoners, were to privatise, regionalise or have a combination of the two.
“We opted for the governance structure to be in state hands with a Board of Governors,” Ramjattan told reporters during a press conference held at his Brickdam office.
The expansion of the Mazaruni Prison and measures which will see the prison system being modernized were recommended following the inquiry.
“We are not privatizing or regionalizing. The government will be the chief proprietor of this thing. We will have to fund it through our finances,” he said. Ramjattan, while unable to provide details immediately, said that the new system proposed had been tested in other jurisdictions.
He said the expanded Mazaruni facility which will be renamed will be managed by an Executive Director.
During the press conference he revealed that $276 million had already been allocated in the first phase of construction as well as an additional $176 million for the construction of administrative buildings. Twelve homes will be built at that location for the additional prison officers who would be needed to control the increased prison population.
He told reporters that it will take several years for the expansion to be completed at a cost of around $2 billion. A brand new prison to accommodate about 2,000 more prisoners will cost in the vicinity of $6 billion and therefore government has decided to do the construction in phases.
Ramjattan had already revealed that in the 2018 budget more money would go towards the project as government wanted a four-storey building.
Vikab Engineering Consultants, a Trinidad-based company, has already completed the design for the expansion at Mazaruni and this had been accepted last month by both Ramjattan and the President.
In another six weeks, tenders will be put out for contractors to do the construction. The government is looking for four contractors.
The CoI recommendations came under the microscope on Sunday when prisoners set fire to the Camp Street prison which left one prison warder dead and several other nursing injuries. Six prisoners managed to escape and are currently being pursued by the joint services.
The fire destroyed most of the prison resulting in at least 1,000 prisoners being evacuated and taken to an enclosed pastured at the Lusignan Prison.
Ramjattan said on Thursday that subsequently 83 prisoners were sent to Mazaruni, 90 to New Amsterdam, 48 to Timehri and 151 to the Lusignan Prison proper. Additionally, he said 57 persons scheduled to be released by the first week in August were released by him for good conduct. Magistrates have also granted self-bail to 26 others, while eight have posted bail, which had been reduced.