Maximum security required at prisons Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
February 27, 2002

SECURITY at prisons in Guyana has been a concern for quite some time, and the recent daring escape by five dangerous prisoners resulting in the death of a young prison officer and a female officer critically wounded, calls for expeditious action in ensuring maximum security at jails.

As a result of this latest unleashing of violence by bandits, the families of the slain officer and his colleague who was still in critical condition yesterday will suffer excruciating and lifelong agony and psychological and emotional stress.

All Guyanese of goodwill hope that the female officer, a mother of two young children, will pull through.

Since the uprising by prisoners several years ago at the Mazaruni Prisons where some inmates set a building on fire that destroyed it, this was probably the most daring and deadly action by prisoners in a breakout.

Intermittently, there have been escapes and prisoners climbing on roofs purportedly to protest prison conditions but Saturday's operation was cold-blooded and calculated.

It was timed to coincide with the celebration of the 32nd Anniversary of the Republic and the band struck in cold blood as the rest of the nation paused and took stock on another national milestone.

This was not the kind of birthday gift the Republic deserved and the nation must take collective stock of the callousness and brutal coldness of the men behind such a foul deed and vow to back the security and other forces in dealing `properly' with them.

Of course, there will be different explanations and theories from individuals, organisations and intellectuals about the reasons and causes of the shocking episode based on their perspective, analysis and interpretation of the incident.

And many would also offer proposed solutions to the problem. In fact, one organisation has already contended that overcrowding at the prisons was a main contributing factor to the breakout.

Whether the organisation is right or wrong is a matter for the team of investigators to determine, but what is important to note is that there has been a growing tendency towards aggression and violence by criminals.

Moreso, criminals have become more violent and ruthless, showing little or no mercy for their hapless victims.

The judicial and penal systems perhaps need to be reviewed, including the education and welfare programmes for prisoners, training of prison employees and the restructuring of prisons to meet the new challenges that arise because of the changing nature of crimes and criminals.

It must be borne in mind that these institutions were designed and built in an era when prisoners were relatively tame and docile.

However, all that has changed rapidly, with the advent of drug-related crimes, deportees from North America and criminals having access to technology and modern weapons.

A question that has to be squarely faced is - is there the institutional capacity to quickly respond to these rapid changes?