Some 200 inmates were yesterday temporarily transferred to the newly constructed holding facility near the Lusignan Prison, according to a press release from the Department of Public Information (DPI).
The transfer of the inmates to the Lusignan facility follows the fire which gutted the George-town Prison on July 9, leaving over 1,000 inmates displaced. Initially, they were all taken to the Lusignan Prison and housed in an open air holding section. Subsequently, around half of them were moved to other prisons around the country; 151 are being accommodated in the main building of the Lusignan Prison, the DPI said.
The release quoted acting Director of Prisons Gladwyn Samuels as saying, “Our intention is to sanitise those prisoners who are currently in the walled area, as described by the Minister [of Public Security] who will be transferred to this area. We are looking at somewhere in the vicinity of 450.”
Adding that alternative accommodations were still being sought for all of the prisoners, Samuels the DPI that the new holding area comprises three sheds, made of wood and zinc, over a tarmac areas that will also enable security services to have more control. Visitor and other amenities will be reinstated once all measures are put in place, he added noting that the prison administration was aware that many family members were anxious to see and to communicate with their relatives to ensure they were well.
Meanwhile, Samuels told the DPI that the new holding area will also provide a better environment for those deemed to be more vulnerable to more hardcore prisoners, who had been taking advantage of them in more ways than one. “I must include that there have been no reports of sexual assault. When I say taken advantage of, that might be taken wrong by the general public,” he was quoted as saying.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Friday after a meeting with the Private Sector Commission had said work on the holding facility was scheduled to be completed on Saturday. However, a statement issued on Sunday said that the completion of the work was delayed owing to inclement weather.
The walls of the facility, Patterson said on Friday in an interview with Stabroek News, are 18 feet high and surrounded by barbed wire fencing which is mounted on an additional five feet. He stressed that the walls of the new facility are solid cast, with a buffer zone between the fence and the facility to allow for a clear line of sight for prison guards. He added that they have also constructed watch towers which are equipped with adequate security lighting.
According to Patterson, they have created the new facility with partitions as requested by the prison service. He emphasised that the facility will be a vast improvement over the current situation.
Prisoners were complaining about the conditions. They were staying in a pasture that was swamped by heavy rain over the last few days and the only shelter offered was temporary tents that had been set up.
“The new holding area has been tarmacked and roofed and will temporarily house approximately 450 prisoners who were transferred from the Georgetown Prison …” a statement from the Ministry of Public had Security explained on Sunday.