Prisons becoming more clogged
Stabroek News
March 4, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Mashramani 2002 was indeed the saddest and the happiest day in Guyana. I never thought I would experience such mixed feelings. The lamentable death of that young prison officer is not a tragedy to be easily forgotten. I grieve with his family. But some questions deserve to be answered: Who or what is to be blamed for the rampant increase of violent crimes and the gun culture which pervades this beautiful and hitherto peaceful society? And where do we go from here?

Indeed dangerous and desperate men cannot be classified as ornaments of society. In some way or the other their career of violence, murder and intimidation must be brought to an end.

But if we are saddled with a legal system in which the emphasis is on punishment and more punishment and no thought is given to reclamation or rehabilitation these despicable deeds would repeat themselves again and again.

I have it on good intelligence that the prisons are clogged up. There is hardly any place in the Georgetown jail to accommodate new arrivals and yet long and short-term inmates are being pumped into the system every working day of the week.

I hold to the view that when a man is diagnosed as ill he is qualified for hospitalisation; when a person is found to be lacking in knowledge he is qualified for academic treatment; and when a person trespasses against the laws of society he automatically qualifies himself for rehabilitation treatment. And in so doing he is not endorsed out of society. He still remains a citizen of his society.

And if society undertakes to elevate someone's civic consciousness, - to restore him to the arms of society - a great investment in kindness and humane treatment would need to be made.

I am convinced that pumping men and women into the prison system and packing them like sardines in uncomfortable cells is not the best way to uplift their civic consciousness.

People do not run away from good and people would not run away from prison if it was a good place. Consequently society has not lived up to its responsibilities when it is reported that men put their lives at risk and the lives of other people at risk in order to get out of prison.

A major cause of crime is lack of employment. Many of the men in jail would not be there if they could find remunerative and regular employment. But Georgetown, though a beautiful city to live in, is not a place of employment. Jobs are scarce and wages often low.

Yours faithfully,

Prince Michael