-‘I’m sorry’ for what happened, says Camp Street boss
By Ravin Singh
DEPUTY Director of Prison Gladwin Samuels has been sent on immediate leave pending investigations into the tragic incident at the Camp Street Prison, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan has said.
Speaking to the media on Friday at his Brickdam office, Ramjattan related that Samuel’s name was called frequently during his interactions with the prisoners to ascertain what the more pressing
issues at the correctional facility are.
Noting that the decision to send the Deputy Director on his six weeks accumulated leave is “not an indictment,” the Minister stated, but that it is an opportune moment for him to proceed on leave, pending investigations at the prison.
“There were a number of prisoners who indicated a couple of things about Mr Samuels and for both his interest and also the interest of the prison and my discretion; I indicated that it might be advisable at this stage that Mr Samuels proceed on leave,” Ramjattan said.
Coupled with this, is the fact that the administration has been calling on senior ranks to take their annual leave rather than have it accumulated.
“It is a winsome opportune moment for him to go on leave. Samuels who is the Deputy Director will be on leave for the next six weeks for good reasons, as a result of a perspective given by both the Director of Prison, myself and Mr Harmon,” he reiterated.
On Thursday, following the death of the 17 prisoners at the Camp Street Prison, inmates at the facility were hurling insults directed at Samuels though he was absent.
One inmate who identified himself by name and is currently serving a life sentence for murder, remarked that Samuels had reportedly said, during the time of the fire, “leff dem let dem burn and die.” The inmate was supported by five other prisoners who echoed similar sentiments against the Deputy Director.
However, prison officials have denied that Samuels made the remark.
But the drama did not stop there. In fact, families and relatives of some of the dead and injured inmates had protested Samuels’ alleged actions.
“We want Samuels go… this is not the first time he treating prisoners bad… he been to court already for this,” one woman shouted as she pointed to the officers’ quarters of the prison.
And this was indeed the case. In 2008, Samuels, a then Superintendent at the Georgetown Prison was placed on $500,000 bail after being charged for manslaughter of prisoner Edwin Niles. Another Assistant Superintendent Kurt Corbin was also charged with Samuels.
Thirty-four at that time, Niles of Guyhoc Park succumbed to injuries he sustained, reportedly from a sound beating from Samuels and Corbin after he was found with a quantity of ammunition at the Camp Street prisons.
He was reported to have had seven .22 rounds of ammunition in his possession after returning to the prison from a day of labour at Camp Ayanganna. Niles was hospitalised for nine days before he died. He was serving a three-year sentence for narcotics possession.
Meanwhile, head of the Camp Street Prisons, Kevin Pilgrim on Friday, in a distraught state, apologised to the families and relatives of the 17 victims who died under his watch.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry of Public Security, Pilgrim said, “I would first want to say on my behalf, that I am sorry. Sorry simply because, being in a prison environment, that is not a word that you hear very often. I know saying sorry is not an excuse.”
Highlighting that it is his mandate to preserve the lives of the inmates and those who supervise the inmates, he agreed that the situation experienced on Thursday was unfortunate.
“I don’t have to wait on an inquiry or an investigation to personally say sorry, simply because of the fact that I am responsible for a prison location and the Laws of Guyana state clearly that as an Officer-in-Charge and when you decide to take up that position of an Officer-in-Charge, you have to be responsible for everyone under your charge,” he reiterated.
The Camp Street Prison head also disclosed that the support of the Joint Service had restored some amount of normalcy at prison, and that compensation for families of the victims will be forthcoming.