Commission recommends injection of new blood in Prison Service
Guyana Chronicle
June 8, 2002

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THE Commission of Inquiry into the February 23 jailbreak has made 41 recommendations which it said were arrived at after "having given matured consideration to all the evidence, statements given by those who appeared before us and all documents submitted to us".

Among other things, it has called for an injection of new blood in the Prison Service.

The team 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".

The six-member Commission headed by former Chancellor of the Judiciary and current Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Mr. Cecil Kennard has submitted a 33-page report to Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj.

On February 23 this year, five prisoners - Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Shawn 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 were up to yesterday still at large and since their escape, have been linked to a series of high profile robberies, kidnapping, car-jackings, murders and internal terrorism.

The commission was appointed to look into the circumstances of the jailbreak and incidental matters.

Here are some of its recommendations:
** The vacancy for 25 Prison Officers should be filled immediately, if not already filled.

** Ratio of female Officers working in the area between the main or front gate (No. 1) and the No. 2 gate should be revised so as to allow for at least one male Officer to be on duty. (This is apart from the armed sentry who should be placed by the main gate).

** An armed sentry (male) should be on duty daily in the area of the front gate for the period from the unlock to final lock down of the Prison.

** Better co-ordination among those who have to deal with self support prisoners. The system is in total chaos and should be reviewed and strictly enforced.

** The number of prisoners, including high profile prisoners, should be reduced by placing some at the Mazaruni Prison.

** All high profile prisoners should be readily identifiable by way of a specific colour of their outermost garment.

** A fair and impartial format for random search of Prison Officers should be developed.

** There is a need for a walk through and X-Ray Scanner at the front gate.

** There is a need for all Prison Officers to be appropriately trained before entering the Service and for there to be follow-up training to be done either on the job or in a formal setting in order to equip them with tools for the difficult tasks they are required to perform. Training is the key to effective custodial work and, therefore, there must be organised programmes of training for all Prison Officers.

** A Prison Officer who had received little or no training in the use of a firearm should never be issued with one.

** Two or more Officers must be on duty at all times in the Operations Room, and at least one should be a male.

** All prisoners should be treated at the Prison Infirmary unless it is absolutely necessary to take them to the Georgetown Hospital. A doctor should be required to visit the Prison on a daily basis, as this would alleviate the task of having to take them to the Georgetown Hospital and thus reduce the risk of escape.

** The procedure for the appointment of orderlies must be strictly enforced as this will ensure that the Officer-in-Charge would know who has been selected.

** There should be established an effective feedback system between the Georgetown Prison and the Headquarters of the Guyana Prison Service to apprise the Director of Prisons of action taken on his instructions/directives.

** The practice of utilising money confiscated from prisoners or found in the cells for administrative and other purposes should cease immediately. This should be investigated, as there seems to be an absence of records as regards their use. All monies found on a prisoner or in the Prison must be paid in to revenue.

** The Police must be informed promptly whenever Narcotic is discovered at the Prison - whether in the prisoner's possession or in the cell. The practice of keeping the narcotic at the Prison is both unacceptable and unlawful. It must, therefore, be handed over to the Police and a report submitted to the Ministry for information.

** The Prison Authorities should avoid placing obstacles in the area to be monitored from the Operations Room.

** The Director of Prisons must be provided with an effective communication system so that he can be reached at short notice in case of an emergency arising, wherever he may be.

** There should be an injection of new blood in the Prison Service. The possibility of recruiting members from the other Disciplined Services should be explored.

** All members of the Prison Service, who report for duty on special days must be in uniform when they are within the precincts of the Prison with the exception of the Officer-in-Charge, his deputy and the Medex.

** A Prison Inspectorate Division should be formed comprising at least three experienced ex-Prison Officers to investigate complaints and make scheduled and unscheduled visits to all Prison locations in order to inspect security measures in place, and equipment on hand.

** An entry should be made in the prisoner's penal record, and endorsed by all Senior Officers at the location, whenever a prisoner is to be placed in a special category. A special Establishment Order must be made to contain the signatures of every member of the staff of the location. This will prevent them disclaiming knowledge of it and at the same time enable them to identify special prisoners.

** Staffing will always be a problem in any system and must never be used as an excuse. Work plans should be revised whenever these situations arise and all available specialists within the system should be utilised to carry out routine duties.

** Officers not on duty must not be permitted to go beyond the No. 2 gate without the express permission of the Officer-in-Charge or his deputy. In any case he/she must be escorted to and fro by someone chosen by the Officer-in-Charge or his deputy.

** The opening in the gate of the Self Support Division of the prison must be sealed by placing a flap with a padlock to secure it.

** A comprehensive disciplinary procedure should be introduced whereby Officers found to be corrupt can be dealt with in an expeditious manner.

** An independent unit should be set up to conduct all internal investigations in the Prison.

** A reasonable criteria should be established for candidates seeking position in the Prison Service.

** Prison Officers, not in uniform, should be required to have an identification tag on their outermost garment, while within the confines of the Prison.

** Verifiable emergency drills should be conducted at least once every month.

** An incentive programme should be arranged which will encourage prisoners to report knowledge of criminal activities or security violation to the Prison Authority. In order to be successful such a programme will require a highly confidential network.

** There should be a better communication network within the Prison.

** Steps should be taken to have Prison Officer Maurice Griffith removed from the Service.

** Supt. Duncan should be replaced as the Deputy in charge of the Georgetown Prison as he is unsuitable for that position.

** Chief Prison Officers Allen and Lyte should be considered for early retirement so that they can be removed from the Prison Service. Their attitude to their work leaves much to be desired. They were aware of irregularities committed within the Prison yet no remedial action was taken by them. This sort of behaviour is unacceptable from persons whose duty it is to enforce discipline among their subordinates and also to ensure that inmates observe all the rules and regulations within the Prison system. Chief Prison Officer Lyte is heavily dependent upon his superiors and is reluctant to make decisions which would ensure proper management of the Prison.

** Cadet Officer Scott displayed an irresponsible attitude. He failed to ensure that Shawn Brown was locked away in his cell, having seen him in a restricted area (between No. 2 and 3 gates). In addition, he breached Establishment Order No. 5/2000 when he chose to have a haircut outside the permitted hours. Further, he displayed an aggressive attitude during the interview and tended to be rude when he was asked why he did not see to it that Dale Moore was escorted to his division when the latter had made a specific request to him to be taken to his division. Any promotion to which he may be entitled in the future should be withheld for the next five years.

** The Office-in-Charge at the Georgetown Prison, Colin Howard should be relieved of his responsibility as Officer-in-Charge, as he is unsuitable for the position. He should be held culpable for maladministration since the answers he gave us revealed flaws in his management technique. It is clear that he displayed weak leadership, which resulted in a breakdown of discipline in the prison. He was far from being truthful with us and one gets the impression that he did so in order to cover up his deficiencies.

** So far as the Director of Prisons is concerned, he is not free from criticism as he did not take the necessary steps to have Maurice Griffith, aka Sparman, removed from the Prison Service, even though he had considered him to be an "undesirable".

The Commission, however, mentioned that one of its members, Mr. VanNooten is not in agreement for "any prison personnel" to be removed or transferred from the institution. One of the reasons given by VanNooten for intentionally refraining from making any recommendations to remove and/or transfer any personnel from the institution is because all of the evidence obtained has indicated that the problems relative to the management of the Prison are institutionalised and will not be eradicated by a cosmetic approach.