Improvements planned for fire and prison services - Gajraj
February 18, 2003
The Ministry of Home Affairs is working hard to improve aspects of the Guyana Fire Service and Guyana Prison Service, says Minister Ronald Gajraj.
The prison service had come in for serious criticism following the escape of five dangerous criminals on February 23 of last year.
Gajraj, speaking at a press conference yesterday at the GTV 11 studios, announced that his ministry was working on further enhancing the security of the prisons and the welfare of staff and inmates.
He said that for the year 2003 the ministry is working on acquiring land identified for a new prison. The ministry is also in the process of acquiring facilities at Lusignan in order to expand activities at the Lusignan Prison.
Also on the agenda is the completion of the Mazaruni Brick Prison which was destroyed by fire some years ago. The minister said that the project was 90% complete and the building was now being painted.
A programme to increase the staff establishment to a targeted figure over a four-year period has commenced while staff members are expected to be exposed to specialist training to meet the organisation’s needs.
These areas include psychology, social work, curriculum development, teaching, agriculture, vocational skills and prison management. The construction and rehabilitation of several prison buildings countrywide is also on the agenda.
The prison service will be carrying out several initiatives in the area of agriculture so as to increase the prisons’ self sufficiency capacity and revenue earning.
Gajraj said that it had been recognised that many inmates returning to society encountered difficulties gaining employment particularly because of their criminal convictions. As such there were plans to provide life-skills to inmates which could help to make them self-employable.
Some of the courses offered through the prison reform programme, Gajraj said, included construction, welding, tailoring, photography, television repairs, music and art. Additionally, special programmes would be conducted to show inmates how to access small loans for their enterprises.
“I must add that the ultimate success of these welfare and correctional programmes depends on the public’s support and involvement.”
Gajraj posited that the fire service was performing creditably despite the many challenges it faced. He said the GFS was able to make progress in several areas including the construction of a new fire station in Anna Regina.
He announced that the GFS was able to acquire three acres of land at Leonora for the construction of the fire service training school. He noted that the capability of the fire service was further enhanced by the acquisition of three fire tenders and replacement parts.
On the agenda for this year, too, is the construction of a complex to facilitate continuous training at all levels.
There is need for the acquisition of more protective gear for personnel while it is hoped that this year will see the establishment of linkages with renowned fire training institutions.