It was indeed shocking to learn that over a dozen prisoners escaped from the Lusignan Prison on Monday July 24, 2017. This new breakout has occurred a little over two weeks after the Camp Street inferno which destroyed the Georgetown Prison resulting, according to reports, in six prisoners having escaped. These prisoners on the run are not petty criminals, but are very dangerous men who have been charged with horrendous crimes like murder and armed robbery. These men, running around unfettered in our country, have taken lives before. Why then were they still held at the Lusignan Prison remains a mystery. However, now that they have escaped, Guyanese must remain very vigilant about their surroundings and their safety.
The glaring incompetence of the public security sector that has been on display ever since the Camp Street fire is appalling! It is very clear even to the less perceptive mind that the authorities have no idea about handling this dreadful situation with prisoners in a sensible, professional and secure manner. And now the Guyanese people must fear for their lives as a result of this profound incompetence.
There has been talk within the last decade of prison and police reform. Actually, the Guyana Prison Service had a Strategic Management Department responsible for all sorts of prison reforms. At the time of writing, I am not sure if that department is still in existence, but it is quite clear that the rhetoric of prison reform has not translated into sensible meaningful action. The struggle to try and bring the prison situation under control after the fire highlighted a security administration that is severely weak. The crisis management strategies employed by the public security sector have been abysmal to say the least.
The argument has gone long past the stage of whether or not a prison belongs in the heart of the city. The issue of overcrowding is also a sore point which has been ventilated ad nauseam by various commentators. What can be done to better accommodate and secure the guests of our society must be discussed in a multi-stakeholder forum to arrive at decisions that are geared to bring about meaningful prison reform.
The President needs to act decisively to bring immediate solutions to the problem of the escaped prisoners. His decisions must ensure that those in charge of our public security are held accountable for this national debacle. Whatever the measures are to be put in place to ensure the prison escapees are recaptured must be done with alacrity. It is unacceptable to have a public security ministry that cannot deliver basic public security. Meanwhile, the President has a former commissioner of police in his cabinet addressing immigration issues.