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Judiciary, Executive agree on measures to ease prison overcrowding

In the wake of the violent prison unrest that claimed the lives of 17 inmates, top representatives of Guyana’s Judiciary and the Executive on Wednesday agreed to consider a raft of measures to address overcrowding in the country’s jails.

Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh and Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo declined to divulge details of the almost two hours of talks that were held in the Board Room of the Court of Appeal.

A Commission of Inquiry is currently probing the circumstances that led to the burning to death of 17 prisoners at the Georgetown Prison on March 3, 2017.

Justice Singh hinted that proposals are being considered for magistrates to assist in easing the overcrowding of the prisons. “What we did was to identify measures by which the judiciary’s work, particularly at the magisterial level can impact in a way that brings about some relief particularly the problem of overcrowding at the prison,” he said.

Hundreds of the prisons are currently remanded or convicted and jailed for minor offences including very small amounts of marijuana while others are serving jail terms for other comparatively minor offences.

The Chancellor said the plans discussed on Wednesday would be “fleshed out” during the next two weeks before they are meaningfully operationalised.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo, who said he was mandated by President David Granger to lead the Executive’s team to the talks, said a tally of persons has to be supplied.  “We are to have follow-up (meetings) after we would have been able to provide some exchange information and an inventory as to how many people are affected and how the judiciary can in fact help the agistracy to deal with the inventory,” he said.

Nagamootoo described the talks as “very successful” in addressing the prison and justice system.  “The judiciary is fully on board,” he said.

Other government ministers included Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan; Attorney General Basil Williams and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. On the side of the Judiciary were Chief Justice, Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Chief Magistrate, Ann Mc Lennan. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Bibi Shalimar-Hack also participated in the discussions.