Prisoner at Lusignan detention facility chopped; Jagdeo vows no political support for escapees

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 July 2017, 18:16 by Denis Chabrol

Prisoner: Cobena Stephens

A prisoner at the Lusignan Prison holding facility was chopped by another inmate, even as authorities continued efforts to reduce the number of inmates who were moved there following last Sunday’s destruction of the Georgetown Prison.

The number of inmates has been reduced from just over 1,000.

Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels confirmed that an inmate was  chopped and treated at the penal institution for a minor injury. He said the victim declined to say who was the perpetrator.

Asked what steps were being taken to remove weapons from the possession of inmates,  Samuels said “at the appropriate time the necessary interventions would be made.”

He confirmed that one of the surveillance cameras was malfunctioning, and said he was not aware that inmates had damaged any of that type of security gadget.

Prisoner: Desmond James

Word of the injury to an inmate at the highly fenced and barbed wire pasture adjacent to the Lusignan Prison came at the same time Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo warned that the almost 100 prisoners would become restive in the harsh conditions they are being held.

“Take the people in there (the gymnasium). At least they will be in a sheltered in environment. Don’t drop them like that in a pasture. They will get worked up too,”

Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan has said that authorities had contemplated placing many of the 1,000 inmates of the now burnt Camp Street jail in schools, but feared that they would have been also set alight.

Prisoner: Cornelius James

The Opposition Leader said unlike the 2002 escape of five prisoners from the Camp Street jail that had spawned years of violent crimes by heavily armed gangs, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) fully supports efforts by the law enforcement agencies to engage in a “large-scale manhunt” for the eight prisoners who escaped from the Georgetown Prison. “No political support from the opposition and secondly, we are not going to go to any communities and ask them to provide safe-havens for any of the escapees so our security forces will not be shot at when they go into communities or have to face an entire community,” Jagdeo said, recalling that women and children had been mobilised to block the security forces from executing their duties.

Six of the eight named so far are Uree Varswyck also known as Malcolm Gordon charged with robbery-murder, Bartica massacre convict Mark Royden Durant also  known as Royden Williams, Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander, Desmond James, Cornelius Thomas and Cobena Stephens aka OJ.

Desmond James, 24, is of Amerindian descent and his last known address is Hotoquai Creek, North West District; Thomas is 31 years old  and he is from Guyhoc Gardens and Trinidad and Tobago, and Stephens, 26, is from 82 Gopie Street, Middle Walk, Buxton, East Coast Demerara.

ESCAPEE: Mark Royden Durant also known as Royden Williams called “Smallie”.

They are all wanted by the police for questioning in relation to murder and escaping from lawful custody (Georgetown Prison). Police said anyone with information about the escapees is asked to contact the police on telephone numbers 225-6411, 225-8196, 225-2227, 227-1149, 226-7065, 911 or the nearest police station.

Dead is Prison Officer, Odinga Wickham who succumbed to gunshot wounds inflicted during the fire at the jail. Eight others, including critically injured Hubert Trim, are still patients at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Jagdeo said unlike a number of then opposition politicians, who are now in the APNU+AFC-led coalition

government, had virtually demonized police during the 2002- 2009 crime spree, “this political opposition is fully on the side of our security forces to restore law and order. The climate is different. No escapee will have political cover now as they did in the past.”

WANTED: Stafrei Hopkinson

He flayed government for negotiating with prisoners during last year’s deadly prison riot that left 17 inmates dead, and again this week deciding to release many of the inmates on self-bail or shortened prison terms. Jagdeo warned that such moves place government in a moral dilemma and set a bad precedent in which prisoners would believe that could cause an unrest to pressure the authorities into releasing them. “It is going to affect us in the long-term, whoever is there in office”…”We can’t be expedient and sow seeds for another crisis in the future,” he said.

The Opposition Leader hoped that there would be an emergency session of the National Assembly to have a full debate on the situation.

Jagdeo said the PPP was taking credit for the way it managed the security sector because of the political environment then in which the then government had been regarded as lacking security experience compared to the APNU+AFC administration that is “overladen with national security experience.”

WANTED: Sherwin Nero

Authorities said the prisoners, who are now on the run, last Sunday distracted police and prison officers by setting a number of fires to the jail so that they could have fled during the confusion.