Ninety high-risk prisoners from the gutted Camp Street penitentiary remain in the swampy area near the Lusignan Prison and according to Prison Director (ag) Gladwin Samuels sand filling work will start today to improve the environment.
“Efforts are being made in order to enhance that area in terms of sand filling so that the situation that was previously aired via social media would not be the condition that they are kept under for whatever duration they will be there”, he told reporters during a press conference hosted by the Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan. The situation being referred to was the posting of videos showing inmates chasing animals and slaughtering a cow.
Reporters were informed that about 400 of the displaced prisoners were transferred to a tarmacked enclosed area close by but the 90 were left behind over fears that they will cause trouble if mixed with the others.
Samuels was asked about the inmates cooperating with the sand filling works. In response he said that whatever is being done is aimed at providing a better environment for the inmates and that because it is a smaller number, officials using their local and overseas training would be able to put the prisoners in one area to ensure that the necessary works are completed.
The conditions under which these prisoners are being kept will likely evoke human rights concerns.
Asked how long the enhancement works are likely to take, he said that the work can actually be done within 24 hours commencing tomorrow once “we have the necessary co-operation. If it is a situation whereby we are required to deploy force in order to get the work done well we would have to do a detailed assessment because at this time we will not endanger the life of any contractors because we have to utilize the specialist operating the machinery to go in there. So all of those things will have to be taken into consideration”.
With regards to these inmates being given medication to protect themselves against diseases such as leptospirosis, he said that he is not aware of preventative medication but knows that all inmates in need of medication are being offered same. He said that while there was one inmate who had to be referred to the Georgetown Hospital the doctors and medical staff based at Lusignan have been dealing with all medical complaints brought to their attention.
Two Sundays ago, the Camp Street Prison was gutted after prisoners set fires. Six prisoners managed to escape – two have since been recaptured- and one prison warden was shot five times and later died at hospital. Several other wardens were also injured and admitted to hospital.
Ramjattan who was also joined by Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud and Fire Chief Marlon Gentle said that those remaining in the swampy area will be transported back to the Camp Street Prison in another few months where a Brick Prison is being rehabilitated to house them.
“We want those that are the real bad ones to be in a safe area in that new brick prison …but that brick prison has to be supported by …the kitchen….administrative staff …and that might take a couple of months. He said that the designers of the building, told him earlier in the day that it will take at list two and a half months to get the area ready while stressing the these prisoners cannot be housed there without all the necessary arrangements being in place.
Contending that the authorities have had some major accomplishments since the tragedy, Ramjattan said that the 400 prisoners who were housed in the swampy area along with the 90 are now housed in better conditions. He is referring to a walled area at Lusignan which was prepared specially for them.
He said that the 90 were left behind as they did not want them to “ contaminate the 400…There are the real bad ones that have done a number of acts which make us believe that if they were to go into that new area we might have further troubles”. Over 1000 prisoners were housed at the Camp Street facility at the time of the fire and more than half have since been transferred to other prisons.
Ramjattan said that all these major constructions to make the place safe will “cost a good set of monies in the vicinity of…over half a billion dollars”, adding that it is the quantity surveyors who will have to give the final figure which he hopes to get by Monday.
Ramjattan said that the National Assembly will be approached for emergency funding to cover expenses relating to the rehabilitation of the Brick Prison, the tarmac area at Lusignan and the removal of debris from the gutted prison.
The next sitting of the National Assembly is slated for next Thursday.
Previously, Samuels had said that a large portion of prison records were burnt during the fire.
He informed reporters yesterday that a process to replace the burnt records has started. “I must say today that we do not have much work to do because most of our current records they were entered into the Inmate Management Information System and fortunately for us the hard drive is secured so we will be able to retrieve from that almost all of the information”, he said.
Samuels said that the hard drive prior to the fire was updated on a daily basis. “Inputting of information is done Monday to Friday by a special team of clerks that have been employed to do so”, he said.
Gentle said that the investigation into the fire is still ongoing and once complete a report will be compiled.