Winfield's husband hopes for miracle
Stabroek News
March 1, 2002

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Mark Winfield, the husband of critically injured prison officer Roxanne Winfield, is hoping for a miracle to aid in his wife's recovery from injuries sustained as a result of the Mash day jailbreak in which a fellow officer was fatally wounded.

Winfield, a 37 year old mother of three who was shot in the left jaw by one of a gang of five felons who fled the Camp Street facility, underwent surgery on Monday evening at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Mark Winfield, who resides in the Turk and Caicos Islands and returned home on Wednesday evening to be at his injured wife's bedside, said he was trying to be strong in the present uncertain circumstances.

Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Winfield stated that Dr Richard Spann, the Trinidadian neurosurgeon who had operated on his wife had arrived with him on the same flight from the neighbouring republic to keep a pre arranged appointment to observe his wife's progress 48 hours after surgery.

According to Winfield, his wife is no longer in a deep comatose state although she remains unconscious, and it is just a matter of waiting to see whether she will come out of it as expected today.

Dr Spann, Winfield stated, was expected to return tomorrow at which time attempts would be made to remove some of the life support equipment attached to his wife in order to make an effective assessment of her capacity to function independently.

The family, he stated, had indeed been gratified by the assistance which had been forthcoming from Government via the agency of the Ministries of Home Affairs and Health, as well as from the prison authorities. The members were especially satisfied by the work of Dr Spann.

The children, he said, had been dealing with the situation relatively well although the 5 year old was not fully aware of what was going on. Winfield has been utilizing his training as a probation officer to aid in ensuring that they were sufficiently conditioned.

"My wife does not deserve to die in this manner," Winfield stated, while relating that he had spoken to her on Friday last, the day before the jailbreak.

A Guyana Information Agency (GINA) release yesterday said that the Government was working assiduously to ensure that the welfare of the families of the injured Winfield, and slain prison officer Troy Williams was being properly looked after.

The release went to to say that the government would shoulder all the funeral expenses for Williams, including the printing of the service programmes, the funeral parlour charges, transportation costs and death announcement payments. Williams is to be buried today in New Amsterdam.

In a second GINA release issued yesterday, it was said that the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Guyana Prison Service had extended condolences to the relatives of the deceased prison officer, and were hoping for the speedy recovery of Winfield.

Meanwhile Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine is concerned about unwarranted criticisms being made of the prison service, without persons having sufficient knowledge of the magnitude of the challenges facing it.

In a third release from GINA yesterday, it was stated that the prison director was hoping that the public would not criticize the administration excessively, but rather support it on account of the importance of the institution to public safety.

According to the statement, Erskine was quoted as saying it was a remarkable achievement that the Camp Street jail had been able to remain impenetrable between August 1999 and Saturday, considering it had admitted a number of high profile prisoners during that period. In August 1999, four men scaled the northern wall of the jail and made good their escape.

Since that breakout several initiatives had been taken in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure a safe working environment for officers while at the same time ensuring the effective custody of inmates.

After that 1999 jailbreak, said the release, a board of enquiry launched by Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj had recommended among other things the installation of an X shaped structure of multi coiled razor wire in place of the barbed wire on the perimeter fence and the establishment of lookout towers.

To date some 95% of the recommendations, according to the release, had been implemented, including the placement of multi coil razor wire, and the installation of one of the lookout towers at the south-eastern corner of the jail. The north-eastern one, was yet to be done. Other improvements listed were the installation of security cameras, floodlights, radio logs between the guard towers and the control centre, the auditing of arms and ammunition, and the setting up of catch nets for objects thrown over the walls.

This apart, due to staff shortage and prisoner overload, transferrals had been made to the Mazaruni Prisons.

The prisons director acknowledged in a recent GINA interview that the prison population heavily outnumbered the staff quota with one officer for every sixty seven inmates.

In the earlier release GINA had also reported Erskine as explaining in response to a question, that officers were not armed on duty in the prison, and in fact it was not wise to arm them. The statement also reported Head of Public Sector Security within the Home Affairs Ministry Joseph Quamina as saying that prisoners who were incarcerated had a lot of time to devise plans of escape. The agency went on to report Senior Superintendant of Prisons Ulric Williams as expressing the view that staff strength was the problem in the prison service, not training.

Williams was also said to have cited environmental factors aiding prisoner escape, such as the discos and rum shops in the vicinity which blared out loud music drowning out the sound of articles being thrown over the prison wall. He did not rule out, said the statement, the possibility of prison officers aiding and abetting inmates in their escape.