What the people say about: the Camp street jailbreak What the people say about...
by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 4, 2002

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On February 23, five prisoners including two who had escaped before, broke out from the Georgetown Prisons stabbing to death a male prison officer and shooting a female warder, critically injuring her. We asked the man/woman-in-the-street to share their views on the jailbreak and the security of the prisons. Their views follow:

Emanuel Graham - public servant: "There's no foolproof system anywhere in the world. Just look at September 11 and all that has happened since. But there is room for improvement for the security system at the Georgetown Prison and other parts of the penal system in the country. To enhance the security system there is need for closer cooperation between the police force, recognised security services, the Guyana Defence Force, prison authorities and members of the public, some of whom are more adept at dealing with these issues than those employed to deal with it. Right now the public is not aware of what may have triggered the jailbreak. Desperate as they are it could all be tied into their need for freedom or better conditions in the prison. With the five who have escaped there is obviously feelings of insecurity but those men are just as much victims of fear as we are because of them right now."

Clement Teekaram - self-employed: "The jailbreak means that there is a lapse in security. It also means that there are problems in the jail as well. I don't live in Georgetown but we in the countryside get jittery when such things happen. Some years ago on the island of Leguan it was said that persons from `Blackie's Gang' actually attacked and robbed a family there. The Georgetown Prison should only be used as a temporary holding. And seasoned criminals should be isolated and kept under surveillance. Knowing that the escapees are out there, armed and dangerous, is cause for concern."

Michael James - driver: "The Georgetown Prisons should be relocated. It's in the heart of the city and there is much communication between the prisoners and members of the public on D'Urban Street. There is no doubt that plans could be made between people on D'Urban Street and the prisoners. Years now this has been going on and the police and prison wardens are aware of it. How could the prisons leave a twenty-one-year-old to guard the entrance. He had no experience in dealing with hardened criminals like those who escaped. Men like Dale Moore and Andrew Douglas should have not been in Georgetown Prisons and if they were they should have been in solitary confinement. They were recaptured by the policing authorities in neighbouring countries and extradited. What a pity they've been allowed to escape once more. The prison should be way out of town where relatives cannot go to visit as often as possible to give them change of clothing and food."

Sunita Jaikaran: "First of all the jail should not have been in the heart of the city and it should really be out of town. In the recent prison breaks escapees got away easily because they could either have transportation arranged for them or they could easily hijack cars like they have done in this last jail break. It is easy escape. Because they live in the heart of the city they know everything that is going on. If the prison is relocated, prisoners would not feel so comfortable with relatives tending to their needs almost everyday. The attitude of the police to suspects is also not good at all. They beat them whether they are innocent or guilty and they make everyone feel guilty more often than not. They are there to serve just as we do in business. We try to serve as best as we could at all times even though people are not always nice to us either."

Winston Ferdinand - businessman: "There is a lot of skullduggery in the prisons. This is because prison wardens are not properly paid and working conditions in the prisons is no better. It is either you die in there, or, you die trying to get out. I had a relative who could not see for a while when he came out of prison. He died subsequently. The prisons are overcrowded and there is a particular female magistrate, who for any reason, just remand everyone who comes before her, to prison. How in heavens could the prison authorities leave very junior persons in charge of the gate. Or how could they leave men who were known to be elusive to the police and had to be recaptured in open captivity? Right now it is a dangerous situation with the men on the lose. The people who got to be afraid are the business people. Generally speaking the situation will become worse though if the prison wardens, police, teachers and nurses are not well paid. Incentives and additional allowances are also needed for the high risk jobs such as the police and prison wardens are engaged in."

Terrence Welch - photographer: "The Georgetown Prisons are overcrowded so the jailbreak was just waiting to happen. There are too many delays in trials and prisoners are not treated like people by the police or the prison system either. There is need for speedy trials and less waste of taxpayers money. You can see and hear this for yourself from the numbers of prisoners who make it to the roof to air their grievances. The prison is overcrowded with prisoners who could easily do some community service in public instead of being sent to prison to serve time. The fact that hanging is on hold is another problem."

Joseph Cummings - private sector employee: "The men had their reasons for getting out of jail. The conditions in the jail and the treatment meted out to citizens when they are in jail leaves much to be desired. It is the times, such as the economic crisis, in which we are living that cause crimes and worsen the situation in the jails. Nobody wants to give police information about wanted men simply because wanted by the police means they have a death warrant for you. As a salesman on the road I don't feel safe but that is the nature of the job. However, if and when they are caught I don't believe that they should be killed. They should be tried and if found guilty whatever the sentence let them serve it."

S. Balgobin: "The prison system I would like to believe give the prisoners too much liberty. They should be locked down as soon as night falls. As far as I know the escapees are dangerous men. I am from the East Coast Demerara and the scene could be a little frightening especially when you see three truckloads of soldiers patrolling the streets in what i supposed to be relatively calm times. Just last year, one of my neighbours who got a little shop was robbed and the men escaped in a white Toyota Carina. Right now in my village we have the vigilante on guard. Some of us are doing two-hour shifts. People are scared."

George Tahal - driver: "The Georgetown Prisons should me moved out of the city and put in an area where it would be more difficult for prisoners to try to escape. The security system needs to be enhanced. It is not good as we have seen in the number of breakouts we have had in recent years. As it is when prisoners escape thy can easily jump in a vehicle and get away even before the prison authorities or the police could react. They should be placed at a difficult location where when they try to escape they do not have easy access to transportation or human habitation. The men on the loose are dangerous. We could expect robberies from them or from other persons and the escapees will get the blame."

Mohamed Sherriff - surveyor: "Prisoners on the roof, jail break are all symptoms of things grossly wrong with the security of the prison. The location of the prison is a problem. If it cannot be relocated then there should be another remand prison because the Georgetown Prison is definitely overcrowded. The immediate solution would be to reduce the current prison population and improve condition for prison staff and prisoners there. Security must be improved. Right now I feel somewhat insecure knowing that armed and dangerous criminals are out there prowling."