Most Prison Service members on duty were negligent
Guyana Chronicle
June 7, 2002

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THE Commission of Inquiry into the daring February 23 jailbreak in which five armed and very dangerous criminals fled the Georgetown Prison, has concluded that most of the members of the Prison Service, if not all, who were on duty that day, "were in some way or the other negligent in the performance of their duties".

"Though it may sound a bit harsh, the deceased Troy Williams and the injured Roxanne Whinfield would be included," the six-member Commission headed by former Chancellor of the Judiciary and current Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Mr. Cecil Kennard said in a 33-page report.

The Commission reasoned that had Williams and Whinfield seen to it that Shawn Brown (one of the five who escaped) was placed in his cell, instead of being allowed to be in a restricted area in the Prison where both were on duty, "this tragedy" might not have taken place.

However, the Commission said the two "are not totally to be blamed" since others share greater responsibility.

There were several other Officers on duty in the area at the Camp Street Prison where they were working "but all took cover" when the incident occurred because of fear, the Commission said.

It pointed out that Cadet Officer Scott, who happened to be in the area of the front (No. 1) and No. 2 gates did nothing to assist either Officer. Rather than help he took cover in the Administration Building, concluded the Commission which was mandated to enquire into the circumstances of the daring prison escape and matters incidental to it.

On February 23 this year, five prisoners - Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Brown, Mark Fraser and Troy Dick escaped from the Georgetown Prison.

In the process, Assistant Prison Officer Troy Williams received serious injuries from which he died and Prison Officer Roxanne Whinfield was shot in the head. Up to this time she is hospitalised suffering from serious injuries to the brain.

The five are still at large and since their escape, have been linked to a series of high profile robberies, kidnapping, car-jackings, murders and internal terrorism.

According to the Commission's report, on the day in question, 36 Prison Officers reported for duty at the Georgetown Prison between 05:30 hrs and 08:30 hrs. Among them were Senior Supt. of Prison and Officer-in-Charge of the Georgetown Prison Colin Howard; Supt. of Prison/Medex, Clement Duncan; Assistant Supt. of Prison, Hugh Fanfair and Cadet Officer, Alston Scott who were responsible for the top management of the prison for that day.

The middle Managers/Supervisors were Plant Maintenance/Supervisor, Augustus Taylor; Chief Officers Phillip Bandoo, Lonsdale Chapman, Ido Lyte and Lennox Allen; Principal Prison Officers II, J. Lamazon, C. Lewis, L. Williams (female) and Prison Trade Instructors D. Griffith and H. Trim. The Commission pointed out that the above-named persons had to supervise 22 basic grade ranks who were detailed to work at the front gate (No. 1), No. 2 gate, Self Support Division, Operations Room, the Capital Division, the Wood and Brick Prisons, Observation Posts 1 and II (OP 1 and OP 11), Kitchen, Condemned Division, No. 3 gate, Pave and Self Support Division, Young Offenders Division, Dining Hall and other ancillary functions.

The Commission noted that since the installation of razor wire and security cameras on the perimeter walls with monitors, sometime in 2000, the escape of prisoners by scaling the fence had been made extremely difficult while the back and front gates remain vulnerable points.

According to the Commission, the evidence reveals that the five escapees who were considered special watch/high profile prisoners, were housed at different sections of the Prison. Douglas and Brown were kept in the "Strong Cell" at nights but in the day were in the Self Support Division. Moore, who had previously escaped and who was at large for a considerable length of time before he was recaptured was kept in the "Wood Prison" at nights. However, during the day he was kept in the Self Support Division even though the evidence reveals that he had not been receiving Self Support for a long time prior to February 23, 2002. The Commission said the same would apply to Brown.

It said Fraser, who had previously escaped on two occasions, was kept in the "Wood Prison" while Dick was housed in the "Brick Prison".

"Though it would appear that there was adequate staff on duty on the day in question, with the exception of the Operations Room, the Main Gate, the Self Support and Young Offenders' Division, it was clear to us that they were not properly deployed," the report stated.

For instance, Prison Officer Matthew Thomas, who was the Literacy Officer at the Prison and who had not previously worked in Observation Post II and had little experience in the use of firearms, was detailed by Chief Prison Officer Lyte to work there. The report said he was given no instructions how he should act in case of an emergency, and was not even provided with a communication set.

According to the report, his only means of indicating that something was wrong was by blowing a whistle.

The report said female Prison Officer Roxanne Nelson, who was the only person on duty in the Operations Room, was unable to cope with the emergency that had arisen. She was confused and did not sound the siren nor did she make contact with Operations Room, Brickdam Police Station, by the radio set until she was told to do so by Prison Officer Thomas, who left his post at Observation (Post II) to tell her that something was amiss and that she should sound the siren.

"One would have expected that she needed no prompting in order to do this as one would have thought that as part of her training she would have known what to do in the case of an emergency," the Commission said.

"For reasons we find difficult to understand there was no armed sentry in the area of the front gate, as there ought to have been", it added.

The Commission also noted that around 08:30 to 09:00 hrs (23/02/02), the Director of Prisons spoke to the Officer-in-Charge of the Georgetown Prison (Howard) and Chief Prison Officer Ido Lyte, who was one of the Duty Officers (Chief Prison Officer Lennox Allen being the other) of the need to be specially careful that day.

The Commission said when it asked the Director of Prison to explain the reason for this, he said he had a "gut feeling" that something was likely to happen.

It was also noted that at around 10:40 hrs that day, Moore who was in Self Support Division (SSD) requested to be taken to his Division (Wood Prison). The deceased Williams was then performing duties at the SSD, the No. 3 gate and the Young Offenders' Section (YOS). T.I. Trim had earlier been assigned to work in these areas to assist Williams but he was removed from there and asked to assist in the feeding of prisoners which would have been at about 11:00 hrs.

The Commission noted that there is an iron gate (No. 3) between the SSD and the YOS and entry to those sections would have to be through the No. 3 gate. At this point of time, Brown was seen near the No. 2 gate where Whinfield was on duty. Brown ought not to have been there and should have been locked in the SSD at the time, it said.

Lyte requested Williams to "pass" Moore through the No. 3 gate and as he, Lyte, was approaching the gate, he (Lyte) observed two prisoners, one of whom he identified as Moore, struggling with Williams. Both prisoners had what appeared to be knives and the three men were then near to the entrance (gate) of the SSD.

At this point in time it would appear that Whinfield had opened the No. 2 gate for prisoner James Gittens to get back into the Prison Yard. Brown, who was nearby, passed through the No. 2 gate and demanded the keys for the front gate (main gate) from Whinfield who resisted the demand and in the ensuing struggle she was shot by Brown, the Commission said.

It would appear that during the struggle the keys which Whinfield had got stuck on the clothing of Prison Officer Esther Charles who was on duty between the Main Gate (front gate) and the No. 2 gate without her realising this. Charles was one of the Officers on duty in the SSD at the time. A struggle ensued between Charles and Brown, who eventually got possession of the keys and opened the front gate (small) and made good his escape followed by Moore.

Around the same time, Douglas was seen by Chief Officer Lyte passing through a "pigeon hole" in the gate of the SSD. Around this time, the Commission said Fraser and Dick were seen on the roof of the Dietary (Stores). It would appear that these two then jumped from the roof into the area between the No. 2 and No. 3 gates, after which they made good their escape, passing firstly through the No. 2 gate, which was open, then through the front gate (small) which was previously opened by Brown.

Douglas also made his exit through this means (No. 2 and front gates), the Commission said.