Severe penalties needed for smuggling contraband into jails

Dear Editor,

What is happening at the Lusignan Prison? This penal institution is supposed to be a place of detention, discipline, correction and rehabilitation where prisoners are kept out of trouble, but it seems that it has become a hotbed for criminal activity, especially smuggling.

On July 8, a man escaped after attempting to smuggle cigarettes and marijuana in a pair of sneakers into the Lusignan Prison. Earlier that same day, prison officers found a black bag with marijuana, lighters and other items in a drain next to the prison’s pig pen.

Early this month, another smuggler attempted to throw a bag of contraband items over the prison walls, including 1002 grams of narcotics, a large quantity of tobacco leaves, four cell phones without SIM cards, one charger, one earpiece and 33 packets of Bristol cigarettes.

Last month, a Lusignan prisoner was caught with knife and cutlass. Also in June, a search of the prison turned up 31 improvised weapon, cell-phones and chargers, SIM cards, memory cards, phone cards, metal pipes, wood, marijuana, cigarettes plus a tattoo machine and ink.

Recently, I wrote a letter to the media about smuggling in Guyana, but inmates at Lusignan Prison and New Amsterdam Prison have mastered this criminal activity to such an extent that they are proudly displaying their smuggled goods in posts on social media.

Something is seriously wrong. How in heaven’s name are prisoners getting their hands on drugs, cell phones, digital tablets, alcohol, cigarettes, weapons and even a tattoo machine? We have to upgrade and reinforce our prisons and stop this nonsense now.

I commend the alert police officers who last month intercepted a smuggler and seized cannabis, cigarettes, phones and a host of other prohibited items. But how these items are getting to the prisoners time and time again?

We cannot escape from the possibility that there is a system of collusion in the Lusignan Prison and other penal institutions. There has to be collusion among the smugglers, the prison workers and the prisoners.

The Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, on more than one occasion, in relation to other jails, had stated his concerns that prison wardens were facilitating the entry of smuggled items into the prisons.

In April,  Mr. Samuels  reported that large numbers of prohibited items were being found in prisons, despite high security levels. A case that comes to mind is that of the prison warder caught trying to smuggle phones, chargers, marijuana and more into the Mazaruni Prison.

Why? It is because the penalties for smuggling prohibited items into the prisons are not severe enough. Smugglers do not hesitate to take the risk because the penalties are soft, the risk of being caught is low and the profit margins are high. It’s as simple as that.

There is only one solution. The penalties must be so severe that as soon as the idea to smuggle contraband into prison pops into a person’s head, that smuggler, prison worker or inmate will think, think again and then decide not to take the chance.

I also suggest that guards should be regularly rotated to different locations in the prison system to prevent the development of any ‘unholy alliances’ with smugglers and prisoners.

The Lusignan Prison seems to be a primary hotbed for smuggling, but the same procedures should be put in place at the other prisons as well because this problem is not confined to just one facility.

Yours faithfully,

Roshan Khan Snr.

Former Commissioner

of the National

Commission of Law

and Order

Former Director of the

Prison Sentence

Management Board

Commissioner, Ethnic

Relations Commission

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