Prison front gate area must be made secure
Stabroek News
March 15, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Five prisoners from the Georgetown Prison stabbed and killed a male prison guard and shot and critically injured a female guard on Saturday 23rd February, 2002, stole the front gate keys from the officers and made their escape in a car outside the prison.

Much has been said already about the escape and the search for the escapees. My letter is intended to point out some of the weaknesses in the prison administration leading up to the attack on the officers and the escape of the prisoners.

What happened in the Georgetown prison on that said day was inevitable, it was a disaster waiting to happen. To try to confine modern day criminals in old fashioned prisons is like a fairy tale. It is not going to happen.

The Director of Prisons continues to stress the number of "blind spots" in the prison compound, as one of his biggest problems. The Georgetown prison front gate area is completely cut off from the rest of the compound by another building, and is an ideal area for that kind of attack.

What has been happening in that prison over the years is that the authorities have been erecting a little building here and there in the compound to ease the congestion, while at the same time giving little thought to the security aspect of the prison.

Considering the large population in the Georgetown prison and the shortage of staff the prison should not have participated in the float parade on that day. The officers should have been deployed on the different shifts to strengthen security.

1. The Georgetown prison population has to be greatly reduced.

2. The front gate keeper's duties must be reviewed. A list of some of his numerous duties is attached which include keeping dozens of keys, kitchen knives from lock down, passing in and out officers, prisoners, relatives and friends, some with rations, lawyers, answering telephone calls and issuing tools to work parties.

3. The front gate areas of all the prisons should be made secure in keeping with modern penal institutions.

4. In today's world with today's criminals, all trade shops where dangerous weapons are manufactured daily should be relocated from the main prison yard.

5. The prisoners visiting area in the Camp Street facility cannot be properly supervised.

6. The general living conditions for prisoners in that institution including sleeping accommodations are bad.

7. For over fifty years succeeding heads of the prison service have failed to bring the department under control in order and good discipline, starting with Mr S.G. Baker from the British Prison Service in 1945 followed by Mr Ronald Aitkin also from Britain (a no nonsense administrator) when the prison population started to rise and get out of control in that small area., Guyanese Director of Prisons Edgar Kendall, Harold Davis, Edwin France, Bryon Henry and Asst Commissioner Kilkeny, all good career officers. Isn't this something to think about, and they did not have 50% female staff to work with as Dale Erskine has, and shortage of staff.

8. There are over two hundred prisoners in the Camp Street prison who should be classified as special watch prisoners, who should be allowed to have a bath, sunlight and at least one hour's exercise everyday, according to the Prison Act. There are not enough staff to supervise these inmates properly in that

overcrowded compound.

Let us be realistic. Prisons are not Sunday School classrooms anymore. A new modern prison outside of Georgetown is the only answer.

Yours faithfully,

Retired senior prison officer

(name and address provided)