Planned prison learning centre to equip inmates with skills for life on the outside

As part of the mission of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) to prepare prisoners for life after incarceration, a Rehabilitative Learning Centre (RLC) where prisoners can be taught trade skills will soon be constructed.

The proposed location for the facility is the Lusignan Prison and according to Director of Prisons (ag) Gladwin Samuels, similar facilities will be constructed at other prison locations, once funding becomes available.

Sunday Stabroek made contact with Samuels following the publication of an advertisement in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle on July 29th, 2018, by the Ministry of Public Security, which requested expressions of interest for consultancy services for the design of an RLC for the GPS.

The acting Director explained that at the proposed multi-complex training centre, prisoners will be taught various skills, inclusive of carpentry, joinery, electrical installation and automobile mechanics.

He said that while the skills mentioned are what the prison service has proposed, the consultancy may indicate which are best.

The advertisement explained that the Guyana government recently received financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) towards the cost of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) and intends to apply a portion to payments under the Contract for Procurement of Services, that is, consultancy services for the design of the centre.

The consultancy services include provision of adequate design that is based on the GPS’ recommendations, approved by experts in international standards and aligned with international standards for the planning and design of prisons. The consultancy also requires the preparation of Bills of Quantities, Technical Drawings and other supporting documents for the production of bid documents. The duration of the consultancy is four months.

Samuels pointed out to Sunday Stabroek that the centre was among the recommendations that came from prison officers during in the Commission of Inquiry into the state of the Georgetown Prison following a deadly riot in March, 2016. Most of these recommendations, he said, have been around for years.

He said that the recommendation made for the construction of an RLC could not become a reality because funding was not available. He said that the GPS is hoping to have the centre built at Lusignan and then have it used as a model for the other locations. He said that constructing the others will require government funding or additional funding under the CSSP.

Asked if women will also be benefitting from this initiative, he said that women are already benefitting from similar initiatives. “While we do not have a fully established trade shop, we have the cosmetology shop, they do tailoring …embroidery on a daily basis in the female prison. While there is a need for us to improve on it, the plan is to duplicate what we are doing at Lusignan at the other prison locations,” he explained.

Samuels said that female prisoners will not be at the new facility. “We can’t bring prisoners from Berbice to Lusignan for training,” he said, before adding that the proposal is to use the RLC as a model for all the prison locations. Aside from Lusignan, the other prisons are located at Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Mazaruni and Timehri.

Samuels reiterated that because the service has no control over funding, it took very long for this particular recommendation to be implemented. “…We can only propose. We don’t approve funds,” he stressed.

According to the advertisement, all eligible consulting firms were required to provide information demonstrating that they have the required qualification and relevant experience to perform the services. Among the things to be included in the Expressions of Interest were a brief background of the firm, previous experience from the last ten years and a brief methodology. It noted that the shortlist would comprise six consultants with a wide geographic spread, with “no more than two firms from any one country.” The closing date for submissions was July 31st, 2018.

Meanwhile, Samuels disclosed that the prison service’s training board recently met and looked at a number of training programmes that are to be improved. He said the CSEC Mathematics programme will be resumed as well as those for several other subject areas.

He explained that while some were affected as a direct result of the Georgetown Prison unrest in March, 2016 and again in July, 2017, space constraints even prior to those disturbances had resulted in some of the programmes being put on hold. “We have worked around that. We had a new learning space established at New Amsterdam and we are also utilising the Prisoner Officers’ Sports Club in order to foster additional training at New Amsterdam. That is where both males and females are benefitting,” he said. Samuels disclosed that there will soon be an exhibition to showcase the craft skills that some prisoners acquired. “They have produced some wonderful pieces,” he said.

Asked about the response of the prisoners to the various training initiatives, Samuels said, “Prisoners are always passionate to be engaged in retraining programmes…. It causes them to be engaged positively instead of being engaged in negative activities.”

Samuels told Sunday Stabroek that involvement in such initiatives, can result in them being placed into various areas of work, which is part of the requirements that allows time to be deducted from their sentence. By being involved in the training initiatives, he said prisoners are also placed in outdoor work parties based on the skills they would have acquired, so that they can earn while in prison.

As a result, Samuels pointed out there are incentives for prisoners to be involved in such initiatives.

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