Georgetown prisons bursting at the seams
No plans for new prison outside - Rohee
Kaieteur News
December 15, 2006

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Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee has announced that the government has no plans to construct a prison away from the city.

The announcement was contained in a written response to a question from Alliance For Change Member of Parliament, Raphael Trotman.

Trotman had asked, ‘What if any, are the plans to construct a new prison away from the centre of the city of Georgetown ?'

The Minister's response is in sharp contrast to recommendations made during two commissions of inquiries, most recently the Disciplined Services Commission.

A few months ago, a senior prison official had called for the immediate implementation of recommendations to build a new prison to avert a major disaster at the existing facility at Camp Street .

The official, who had requested anonymity, made the appeal in the wake of the attempt by three high profile inmates to break out of the Camp Street jail.

A few months ago, three prisoners, Cyon ‘Picture Boy' Collier, Dwight Da Silva and Devon Bailey, broke out of their cell and attacked three prison officers who were making security checks around the facility.

Recommendations were made for the building of a new prison since the break out by murder suspect Maxwell ‘Lunkie' Melville in the early 1990s and again by the Disciplined Service Commission following the 2002 jailbreak by five inmates. One prison officer died and another was seriously wounded during that jailbreak.

The prison official had described the most recent jailbreak attempt as a wake up call for the administration, pointing out that had it not been for the alertness of the three officers who were on duty something catastrophic could have happened.

The prison official recalled that on February 23, 2002, the five inmates had access to weapons, to wit a gun and knife.

The knife was used to stab one of the prison officers to death while the gun blew out a portion of a female officer's brain, leaving her incapacitated for life.

This newspaper understands that the remand centre at the Camp Street Prisons is constructed of wood and this allowed several inmates to rip out a portion of the wall and climb unto the roof to protest the conditions there.

The facility is so overcrowded that several high profile remand prisoners have to be housed in the high security section of the facility, which is normally reserved for convicted inmates who are serving long sentences.

Most of the remand prisoners are housed at the Camp Street Prisons along with those who are serving sentences for murder and other high-profile crimes.

The Georgetown Prisons houses several high-profile inmates, including several members of an Agricola gang who have been accused of killing five Kaieteur News pressmen. There is also Cyon Collier who is on remand for killing two brothers in Victoria and who is also linked to an East Coast criminal gang which, from all appearances, has access to the stolen Guyana Defence Force AK-47 assault rifles.

The Mazaruni Prisons also houses some long serving prisoners, while Lusignan and Timehri are holding facilities for inmates who are scheduled to be released soon.

According to the officer, it will be unwise to incarcerate high-profile prisoners at Mazaruni, since the facility there is not secure enough to hold them.

According to the officer, it will take close to US$1 million to build a new maximum security facility.

He noted that much attention is being given to the police in terms of resources to deal with the crime situation, but pointed out that this amounts to being a penny wise and pound foolish since the two agencies need to work together to bring back some calm to the society.

Since the last Commission of Inquiry, the administration erected security cameras and guard towers around the Camp Street jail but sources say that these interventions are serving no purpose since, according to reports, they are mostly non-functional.

At present, Guyana 's penal system has five locations — the main Camp Street jail and the New Amsterdam , Mazaruni, Lusignan and Timehri Prisons.

Government has been spending millions of dollars to equip the Guyana Police Force to fight a growing crime problem.

But while the police have been making some success in capturing many of the criminal elements, the situation is being compounded by the inadequacy to effectively house them.

“The pressure is now on us because when the police capture them, we are so overcrowded that it puts a strain on the officers to effectively manage the prison. We anticipate that we will have a lot of unrest and we always have to be on the alert,” the officer stated.

The officer said that should there be another jailbreak, the consequences will be worse than what obtained after the famous February 23, 2002 escape.