Changes at top urged
Stabroek News
June 8, 2002

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The government will enforce the recommendations of the commission of enquiry which probed the bloody escape on February 23 by five prisoners from the Camp Street jail.

Yesterday, President Bharrat Jagdeo said that the revelations in the report were disturbing and that it would be placed on the agenda of the Defence Board so that action along the lines of the recommendations could be taken. The report is critical of the management of the Georgetown Prison.

Director of the Prisons, Dale Erskine, came in for criticism for not taking steps to dismiss from the service an officer whom he considered "undesirable." The report recommended that the officer concerned be removed from the service.

It also recommended a change in the top management of the Georgetown jail. It proposed too that the Officer in Charge be relieved of his responsibilities because of weak leadership that led to a breakdown of discipline at the prison. The deputy officer in charge was also recommended for removal as being unsuitable for the post.

It also recommended that two of the chief prison officers on duty at the time of the escape be considered for early retirement, slamming them for being aware of irregularities and not taking remedial action to address them.

The report forwarded that another of the supervisory staff - a cadet officer - should not be considered for promotion for the next five years because he breached a number of the regulations.

Some of the 41 recommendations included the establishment of a prison inspectorate to investigate complaints; to inspect the security measures in place and equipment on hand at the country's prisons; the reduction of the officer-to-prisoner ratio to allow for the recruitment of more staff; and the injection of new blood into the prison service including the recruitment of members from the other disciplined services.

The report recommended too that using money confiscated from the prisoners for administrative and other purposes should cease and that cash paid into revenue and that the procedures for appointing orderlies should be strictly enforced. It said that this was to ensure that the officer in charge knew who was selected. One of the escapees, Shawn Brown, was at one time an orderly.

It also recommended that two or more officers, one of whom should be a male, should be on duty at all times in the Operations Room and that no officer should be issued with a firearm who is not trained to use it. This occurred on the day of the escape.

Among the other recommendations too were random searches of prison officers, placing a walkthrough and x-ray scanner at the front gate, dressing high-profile prisoners in special colours so that they are easily identified, and the posting of a male armed sentry on duty daily in front of the front gate from the unlock to the final lockdown.

It also recommended the training of all prison officers before their entry into the service as well as post-entry training, either on the job or in a formal setting, to enable them to discharge their responsibilities more effectively.

Former chancellor of the judiciary, Cecil Kennard headed the commission and its other members were Lt Col Christine King, Snr Supt Frederick Caesar, Sultan Kassim, Steve Fredericks and Errol Van Nooten. They submitted their report to Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj on Monday and Cabinet was notified of its submission on Tuesday.

The five escapees, Shawn Brown, Mark Fraser, Troy Dick, Dale Moore and Andrew Douglas, are still at large. One prison officer was killed and another seriously injured in the breakout. They have been linked to a series of crimes since their escape.