-Scanners, new equipment, inner fencing to be installed
OVER $500M is expected to be expended on the repairs and the installation of additional security features to bolster the Camp Street and Lusignan prisons, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan has said. In order to get the necessary funding, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, told members of the media that government, through the Ministry of Finance, will be applying to the National Assembly for a supplementary budgetary allocation during the next sitting.
“The over $500M will be spent on temporary repairs to the brick building at the Camp Street prison and to install a kitchen, an administrative building and an inner fencing at the prison…as well as money to pay contractors who have been working at the Lusignan prison,” said Minister Ramjattan.
Although the figure is not confirmed by the contractors, he said that they have advised him about an estimated sum and will make a conclusive disclosure by Monday. On July 9, 2017, most of the facilities within the Camp Street prison were destroyed by a fire, leaving over 1000 prisoners to join the Lusignan inmates. But due to the congestion, most of the prisoners had to occupy a pasture within the perimeter of the holding facility.
Scanners One of the measure being put in place to ensure safety within the prison, is the installation of scanners and other equipment that are expected to reduce the contraband being smuggled in to the prison. A scanner has already been installed in the new facility at the Lusignan prison. And over the long term, Samuels said once they receive the funding they will install them at other holding facilities. When the process is complete, it is expected to provide a safer environment for both prisoners, as well as prison officers.
In an effort to reduce the burden, the Ministry of Public Security and ranks of the joint services shifted 210 prisoners to other holding facilities; however, the remaining prisoners could not have stayed in the unfavourable conditions within the pasture. Early last week, the Ministry constructed a tarmacked facility next to the pasture that to pasture. The facility which houses over 400 inmates is equipped with sheds, toilet facilities and other basic necessities.
“Although we have shifted many prisoners, 90 of them, who due to their acts are considered real bad ones, will remain in the pasture because we do not want them to contaminate the new facility,” said the Minister. The pasture is expected to be filled with sand so that the prisoners do not face harsh conditions when it rains. Director of Prisons, Gladwyn Samuels said that prisoners will remain in the pasture until the repairs and additions to the Camp Street prison are completed.
Construction is projected to last over two and a half months.
Their aim, he said is to ensure that the facility is safe and well equipped to house the prisoners. When completed, it will be able to house about 250 prisoners.
Overcrowding Meanwhile, simultaneously government will be working on a programme to prevent overcrowding at prison locations countrywide. The project, which is expected to work to significantly reduce prison population through ‘pre-trial liberty’ and ‘alternative sentencing’, was cancelled one day after the country’s main prison facility at Camp Street was destroyed by fire.
Attorney General, Basil Williams, had told this newspaper that despite the cancellation, the ministry, its Inter-American Development Bank partners, who were already in the country at the time of the unrest, as well as other stakeholders were able to go ahead with their work. “We were able to meet,” Williams posited, before noting that the project will be, “managed by a sectoral committee.”
The Legal Affairs Ministry said since the 2016 prison unrest and fire at the Camp Street jail, “The Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, has been assiduously moving apace to address the issue of overcrowding at the prisons.” The ministry said that the government has therefore secured US$8m from the IDB to fund the support for the criminal justice system project. Guyana’s prison population is said to be at 256 per 100,000, which is above the world average of 146 per 100,000. The current IDB-funded project is designed to complement a previously approved citizen security programme targeting high-crime neighbourhoods.
Four million of the US eight million dollars allocated to the project is financed via the IDB’s ordinary capital, has a 30-year amortisation period and an interest rate based on Libor. The remaining $4 million is through the IDB’s subsidised lending arm. It has a 40-year amortisation period and a fixed interest rate of 0.25 per cent.
Last Monday’s prison fire completely destroyed wooden structures at the Camp Street prison. One prison warden was killed by escaping prisoners, while several others were injured. While no prisoner was harmed during last Monday’s unrest, 17 died in 2016 when inmates had lit their mattresses. They said they were fed up of overcrowded prison cells, poor food and long trial dates.