The authorities are not the only ones to blame for the jailbreak
Stabroek News
March 4, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Many readers of your column are calling for the heads of the prison authorities to be rolled because of the Mash Day jailbreak. But in fairness to the prison authorities if there is any blame, the authorities are not the only ones to suffer.

The Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:01, section 345 states:

"Everyone who having the lawful custody of any person ... as a warder ... through negligence or carelessness, allows that person to escape from custody shall be guilty of a misdemeanour..." I have read an editorial in one of our newspapers that:

"The Police are angry. The prison authorities were slow in informing them. This is not the first time..." I have also read that the prison authorities had information about three weeks before the jailbreak that someone had smuggled a firearm into the prison. Further, that they were informed by the police of an impending jailbreak.

If the reports are correct the prison authorities are guilty of negligence.

The Prison Act, Chapter 11:01 - Part V - Special Rules for Particular Classes of Prisoners, deals with "untried prisoners" which is defined in section 311 as:

"a prisoner committed to prison on commitment for trial for an indictable offence or pending ... or in the course of an information or complaint ..."

Section 312 (1) states:

"Restrictions on the association of untried prisoners shall be limited ... to prevent contamination or conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice."

According to reports escapees:

"Moore and Douglas were remanded on charges of a series of murder and robbery under arms;

"Brown remanded on a series of charges for robbery under arms;

"Dick remanded for murder and, "Fraser, serving a 25 year term for robbery under arms."

Should these prisoners - as violent and dangerous as they are - be allowed to be together? Is this not a situation which calls for segregation of these prisoners? Could not the authorities have foreseen that such association was tantamount to giving them a licence to contaminate other prisoners, or to conspire to defeat the ends of justice?

Section 62 (1) states:

"A prisoner charged with a capital offence shall be kept under special observation at all times by the Medical Officer who shall keep a written record of the physical and mental condition of the prisoner."

Section 58 states:

"The Medical Officer shall draw the attention of the Officer-in-Charge to any prisoner whom he suspects of suicidal or homicidal tendencies in order that special observation may be kept on such prisoner..." Were sections 58 and 62 above complied with?

Section 85 states:

"The Chief Officer shall carefully observe the behaviour and general demeanour... all prisoners and shall report his observations to the officer-in-charge. Any neglect or misconduct observed by him shall be reported immediately."

Section 90 states: "The chief officer shall ensure that every prisoner and his cell are specially searched once every fortnight at uncertain hours and shall ensure that no prisoner has prior knowledge of such search."

Some writers write about 'restraints.' Section 226 mentions the following 'Mechanical Restraints':

"(a) Handcuffs

(b) Body-belt

(c) One-piece canvas suit or dress

(d) Straight Jacket

(e) Ankle-straps."

In light of the above, is it fair to say that the prison authorities are solely responsible for the predicament in which they find themselves?

I blame the overcrowding and lack of proper security within and around the jail. New leadership for the institution should be considered, because of the inability of the present staff to arrest the many attempts, and the frequent scaling of the prison walls. I suggest that the head of the institution be a senior member of the Guyana Defence Force. There should be a new look at the recruitment of so many female warders to guard male prisoners; they should be used to guard female prisoners.

Yours faithfully,

Bertwald Bradshaw