Survey finds prison inmates exposed to violence

-recommends improved safety measures

The recently released survey of prison inmates found that many convicts were exposed to violence during their incarceration, while recommending that safety measures be strengthened.

“Nine out of ten inmates reported feeling less safe in prison than at their home or the place where they had lived before,” the report said.

It added that six out of 10 inmates said someone had stolen their personal belongings in the prison, while a quarter said that in the previous six months they had been attacked or beaten. Eight out of 10 inmates also said that they had seen another inmate being beaten, the report stated.

“Safety of inmates should be prioritized. Some findings indicate the need for interventions… In terms of policy implication, there is a need to strengthen safety measures and develop institutional mechanisms for complaints,” the report added.

The Guyana Prison Service Inmates Survey, which was conducted as part of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme through collaboration with the University of Guyana, the Center for Latin American Studies on Crime and Violence, the National University of Tres de Febrero of Argentina and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was handed over to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan two Mondays ago. 

The findings are based on a survey of 696 inmates (653 men, representing a third of male prisoners, and 43 women, representing half of the total female inmate population).

Despite the violence in the prison system, the report said there were no major sexual violations of inmates. According to the report, nine out of 10 inmates said that from the time of their arrest, they had not witnessed another inmate being forced to have sexual intercourse with another person. Almost all prisoners said they had not been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will since they were arrested, the findings revealed.

However, the report said it was important to highlight the sensitivity of this kind of question, which possibly has caused a large underreporting of sexual abuses. “This can be evidenced by the fact that there are more reports of sexual abuse in third person: 8.2% of the inmates said they have witnessed another inmate being forced to have sexual intercourse, while this percentage is only 1.5% when it refers to first person experiences of sexual abuse. This may indicate that it is difficult to recognize oneself as a victim of abuse, whereas it is easier to inform about others inmates. However, there are gender differences on this issue: for men, it seems indeed to be a delicate topic – 8.8% report abuse in third person while only 1.1% report having been a victim personally. On the other hand, women seem to be reporting both third and first person abuse to a similar extent (3.4% vs. 4.6 %),” the report added.

The report also noted that the participation level of inmates in various activities in prison was “very low.”

It said over half of the inmates (52.3%) participated in the cleaning or maintenance of the prison, 48.7% participated in sports activities, 47.9% performed some kind of work inside the prison, 28.2% participating in educational activities and 21.9% participated in entertainment activities. Meanwhile, given the overcrowding in the prison system, the report said this is suspected to have led to some shortcomings regarding personal integrity and safety of the inmates’ belongings. “Only 5.7% of the inmates reported that prisons provided sheets, 6% of the inmates reported that prisons provided clothing and 3.6% of the inmates reported that prisons provided towels,” the report highlighted.

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