Over half of all prisoners are repeat offenders

Stabroek News
July 1, 2000

Just over half of all prisoners in the prison system are repeat offenders; a factor that causes severe overcrowding and puts a strain on prisoners and guards.

At a press conference yesterday in the Prison Officers Sports Club, Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj said the overburdened system includes the Georgetown prison with three times the number of inmates (900) than its official capacity. Gajraj said that efforts to reduce overcrowding needed to involve the Police and the judiciary as those branches directly impacted on prison conditions. To that effect a United Kingdom Technical Assistance Mission has just finished a review of the Georgetown Prison Service (GPS) which will be linked to similar reviews in the other branches. This will result in a set of mutually agreed recommendations and possible funding.

The three-man mission assessed the improvement of the prison regime with emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders; the organisation and management of the system to provide a safer environment; measures to reduce the prison population; and probation as an intervention in the rehabilitation of offenders.

Alastair Papps, the mission's head, noted that the most concern centred on the conditions at the Georgetown Prison which he described as "not good." He could not compare the repeat offender ratio against those for England but noted that Guyana did not practise alternative forms of punishment such as community work to any great extent.

Gajraj said the possibility of moving the prison out of Georgetown was being discussed. He said he had talked to a Trinidadian company that was interested in running a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) facility. This would leave the present site for the holding of remand prisoners.

Meanwhile, Gajraj said prisoners at Timehri were being exposed to skills such as brickmaking and carpentry so they would have an entree into the labour force upon release. He urged members of society to refrain from judging ex-inmates harshly, and stated that businesses should give them opportunities for employment. This would help to keep them away from any criminal activities.

The Guyana Youth Business Trust recently established by Britain's Prince Charles will also be working in the prisons to identify and encourage entrepreneurs.

The mission is led by Papps, associate director of the International Consultancy Group Civil Service College, Brian Fellows and Arthur De Frisching.

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