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GHRA calls for hundreds of prisoners to be released

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) office

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling on authorities to send home hundreds of prisoners to help ease overcrowding as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.

“These recommendations are also made in light of the very limited medical services currently available in the prisons, where not even the services of the medex are available full-time,” the decades-old rights organisation said.

There are no reported cases of COVID-19 in any of Guyana’s prisons.

But, the GHRA wants all sentences for possession of marijuana or other secondary category drugs to be commuted to time served. The Association also wants all remand prisoners for non-violent crimes be reviewed and bail reduced. Similarly, the GHRA recommends that all prisoners whose sentences are within three months of completion should be released early, and all women prisoners for non-violent offences be commuted.

The GHRA specifically expressed concern about the Lusignan Prison which is located in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), a region that has been classified as the epicentre of Guyana’s outbreak.

“In particular, the Lusignan facility was never intended to be a prison and constitutes an ideal incubator of Covid-19. Hygiene, lack of fresh air and water, the grimy conditions inevitable with so many persons in a concentrated space, all point to the urgent need for reducing the numbers,” the GHRA said.

The Ministry of Public Health said that so far there are 24 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In keeping with a gazetted order by President David Granger, under the Public Health Ordinance, Chapter 145, the Public Health Ministry banned people from visiting, among other places, a prison or correctional facility.