Proper systems needed at prison
Guyana Chronicle
March 9, 2002

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The recent jailbreak, murder of a male prison officer, attempted murder of a female officer and the fear which has been put on law abiding citizens as the band of 5 roams the country must be attributed to the type of prison administration that exists. Responsibility must rest squarely on the shoulders of those who are placed to manage the Georgetown Prison. Secondary information sources reveal that there was word out that a gun was smuggled into the prison a few days before the prison break and that an unsuccessful search was conducted but the gun was not found.

As someone who has served on prison visiting committees overseas for a number of years and was exposed to prison systems in some Caribbean territories such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua and the British Virgin Islands, I do understand prison culture. It is time those who are placed in charge of the prison be more proactive in their management of the prisoners.

In other countries from the time that the word was out that a gun might have been smuggled into the prison, the entire prison would have been placed on lock down and security raised to another level. This would have remained in force for a very long time. With a holiday weekend approaching even greater care would have been taken

because a prisoner with a gun can have only one intention.

As for the alleged search that was done, one wonders what level of administration supervised this exercise and what level of reporting was done.

Why the expertise of the police was not sought in executing the search. It must also be noted that the prisoners who escaped are all high risk prisoners. A system of categorization should be in operation at the prison so that standard operation procedures in proportion to the classification of prisoners would have been enforced. Why must prisoners who are convicted of murder and robbery under arms be kept at the Georgetown prison? How can such prisoners be allowed the liberty to roam around with such ease inside the prison, placing the lives of prison officers at risk.

I hope that the prison superintendent can live with the fact that through his Administration's failure to be more proactive, that his officers have suffered tragic losses. The psychosocial and economic effects of this tragedy are enormous. I think that it is time for the President of Guyana to introduce a system of performance contracts for heads of institutions and government agencies. Has this been in existence, I am sure that the Prison Chief tenure would have been in question after this jail break. No one is saying that prison breaks would not occur but the secondary information out there reveals how ill-equipped our prison officers are to cope with the criminals they are placed to supervise. While the criminals are updating their strategies and criminal skills, our prison officers basic training is the tool which they rely on to cope with the prisoner. I hope that the board of enquiry will tell it as they find it .I hope that this experience tells us that dangerous criminals have no business being housed in Georgetown and that Mazaruni is the place for them.

In closing I must say that a new prison is needed. The present structure in Georgetown cannot provide the added security features that is required for the 21st century. Government needs to invest in technology that will enhance the effectiveness of the prison system. Metal detectors at point of entry into the prison, security scanners for all parcels and property being taken into the prison by prison officers, visitors and prisoners must be implemented immediately before we experience a bigger tragedy.

I am sure that there are corrupt prison officers at the Georgetown Prison and that is responsible for the firearm being successfully smuggled into the complex. While this is no excuse, I hope that the Prison Chief will realise that a 21-year-old cannot be responsible for opening the main prison gate.

This weakens the security integrity of the prison. A more mature and experienced officer should have this responsibility. Furthermore two officers should be present when the gate is being opened. Security cameras should be mounted outside the prison entrance to give a full view of the entrance and the immediate road way

My sympathy goes out to the prison officers and their families. Also to the remaining prison officers. I wish the success in their duties.
Linden Jordan