The crux of the prison problem is the inequitable application of the laws

Dear Editor,

I have witnessed the recent upheaval in our prison system, the ensuing quest for answers and the political blame game that makes nonsensical claims that the Minister of Security or the President should resign; it is blame based not on fact, only on political expediency.

The crux of the problem is the inequitable application of the Laws of Guyana. Take the example of marijuana use: our enforcement arms seem unable to apprehend anyone with a modicum of wealth, but are bloodhounds for the ‘seeds and stems’ possessed by the poorer elements of society. The rich and middle class live secure in the knowledge that their doors are safe from police boots, but not so the poor.  Indeed the very interpretation of the law by the police force seems to be done on the basis of the wealth of the individuals involved; the rich man’s hookah is legal while the poor man’s chalice is a ‘smoking utensil’ worthy of three years’ incarceration. Poor people liming on a corner are subject to searches and charges of ‘loitering’, while the rich engaged in the same activity are only bothered with a “leff sumting” request occasionally.

This inequitable treatment is further compounded by the judicial system which continues to impose lengthy custodial sentences for the aforementioned ‘seeds and stems’, I believe the judiciary must be at the forefront of ending the injustice, and to those members who constantly claim that their hands are tied by the sentencing guidelines I ask if justice is being served by their actions, and what their moral obligations are as guardians of society. Are they helping to build the Republic or are their actions repressing the poor?  I think they know the answers, and my suggestion is that they work assiduously to dismiss these frivolous charges as often as possible. They should not remand; let the ‘offenders’ go on self-bail, and let the Police Force know that guilty verdicts will be difficult or impossible to obtain. They should not wait on the politicians to enact new laws, they should do their bit to build a just society by refusing to cooperate with the unjust behaviour of the Police Force. With the passage of every new law, the oppression of the poor grows. Who do you think will face incarceration for violation of the Tobacco Control Act of 2017?

To the politicians on the government benches: they would be better served displaying empathy for the plight of the poorer citizens than looking to the findings of any Commission of Inquiry, while those on the opposition benches should please spare us their Eureka! moments. They had no solutions when in office.

I remind my fellow citizens that none among us wants to be a ‘thiefman’. We should stand for the rights of the poor and downtrodden and offer opportunity equitably. Our reward will be a healthier society.

Yours faithfully,

Robin Singh

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