Building of new cell blocks at Camp Street jail expected to start by yearend -Prisons Director

Gladwin Samuels

The construction of new holding facilities at the Camp Street Prison is likely to commence before the end of the year as the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) is preparing to go to tender for the works, according to Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels.

Samuels made the disclosure on Friday during an engagement with the press, and was at the time responding to questions on the status of the prison system nearly a year after a fire, which claimed the life of a prison warden and facilitated the escape of several prisoners.

The July 9th, 2017 fire, which was set by prisoners during an uprising, had destroyed a majority of the jail’s holding cells and facilities, resulting in prisoners being relocated to different prisons around the country.

Days after the occurrence, President David Granger and members of his Cabinet had visited the site for a firsthand look at the destruction. It was during this visit, it was reported, that the President had said his administration does not intend to rebuild a full-scale prison facility at the site.

However, Samuels, on Friday, explained that since the fire they have made the necessary provisions to construct the three holding facilities to house prisoners. The construction of the new holding facilities is being funded through the prisons’ $1.5 billion budgetary allocations for 2018.

“We should be going to tender in order to have those works allocated to a suitable contractor and have the works executed… to accommodate the arrival of the cells,” Samuels noted.

The Director of Prisons noted that they have already awarded a contract to a US company to construct prefabricated cells. He stated that the new buildings will be built to accommodate the cells, which have the capacity to hold up to three prisoners.

The prefabricated cells, he explained, are expected to arrive in the country before the end of the year.

“We have recently finalized all of the construction detail for all of the cells. Our architect would have just completed the work that would have to be carried out at Camp Street,” he said, noting that they would be inviting tenders for construction of the facilities within a month’s time.

Further, Samuels said that monies from their 2018 budgetary allocation are also being used to fund further expansions at the Mazaruni Prison. Samuels explained that the contractors are on the ground at the Mazaruni Prison and have begun preparatory works.

“The works involve them putting up a fence from the prisoners and construction of a road that can be used to easily access the work site. Due to the location, the materials are being delivered by barge and the road network needs to be enhanced to facilitate the heavy duty trucks…,” he added.

Samuels also pointed out that constructing holding cells at the Camp Street and Mazaruni prisons will not solve the issue of overcrowding experienced within the system but would only cushion it.

At present, the prison population stands at 2,183 inmates.

“Hopefully with our efforts, we are proposing in our 2019 budget that we enhance our facility needs…,” Samuels noted. He went on to state that a consultation was done and that they are following the recommendations to address the challenges in the prison system.

Touching on security at the holding bays at the Lusignan Prison, Samuels said that in recent months, they have been able to enhance and improve their security at the facility. He said that there have been police and prison officers on duty all day, monitoring the daily operations. Those ranks are backed up by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

“…We improved our security capacity of our daily operation and the GDF is not required on a daily basis as when we first moved the prisoners there. The army is always on standby, does patrol at intervals,” he explained.

Since the fire, some 523 prisoners are being housed in the temporary holding centre at Lusignan. This is in addition to the 110 prisoners already being housed at the facility.

Additionally, 203 high profile prisoners have been relocated back to the Camp Street Prison. Those prisoners are being held in the new brick prison, which was close to completion when last year’s fire occurred.  

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