Corbin flays minister over jailbreak
Stabroek News
March 1, 2002

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PNC/R chairman, Robert Corbin yesterday called for the resignation of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj in the wake of the escape of five dangerous prisoners from the Camp Street jail on Saturday. One prison officer, Troy Williams was fatally stabbed in the prison break, and another Roxanne Winfield, was critically injured.

Corbin told reporters at a Congress Place press conference that the PNC/R was disappointed to hear Gajraj only say that he was convening a commission of enquiry, and what the party expected "was his resignation for having overall responsibility for the prisons where time and time again, escapes, protests, and intolerable conditions exist under his stewardship.

"A previous commission of enquiry had made certain recommendations which were kept secret but which we were led to believe were adequate to address the maladies of the prison system."

He said that this time around, a life had been lost and there had been no explanation as to how five prisoners considered extremely dangerous could have been together at the same time outside their cells and under the control of a twenty one year-old officer.

"Whilst recognizing the bravery of this young officer, it is patently obvious that a more seasoned officer should have been in the general population area and under the watchful eye of armed sentries."

He said that the time for commissions of enquiry are over and that the announcement had been tantamount to shutting the stable door after the horse had fled. "It is now timely to consider resignations and the utilisation of persons who know and understand the dynamics of crime and punishment."

Corbin called Saturday's prison escape "a tragedy waiting to happen... triggered by a volatile combination of overcrowding, slow disposition of cases and understaffing."

He said that the government needed to address these issues in a more determined manner.

"Failing this, prison officers will continue to carry out their duties in constant fear of their lives and citizens will be perpetually on tenterhooks at the ever present possibility of dangerous criminals escaping into the community."