New governance structure for Guyana’s prison system adopted

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 July 2017, 17:25 by Denis Chabrol

The Mazaruni Prison

The Guyana Prison Service is about to adopt a new governance structure that has been recommended by a Jamaica-headquartered consultancy service stemming from a fire last year that claimed the lives of 17 inmates, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan announced Thursday.

He expressed confidence that the recommended governance structure that would include a Board of Governor and an Executive Direct of the prison service to be renamed a correctional institution would work.

“Indeed, it’s some experts that are advising me. I am no expert in this and we put out there that we would like to have options from people who know a thing or two about the modernised governance of prisons,” he said when asked why he believed that the new structure would work.

Ramjattan said the model being recommended by Trevor Hamilton and Associates has been tested in other countries and the consultant has done work for Jamaica’s prison system.

Retired Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Duke Pollard is this month end expected to complete the drafting  amendments to Guyana’s Prison Act.

When implemented, the new structure would cater for recruitment, salary scales, employment practices and the hiring of experts to conduct research and mobilise resources.

Ramjattan said Guyana’s Prison system would continue to be owned and funded by the State. “It will be owned by the government. We are not privatising or regionalising. The government will be the chief proprietor of this thing. We will have to fund it through our finances,” he said. The Private Sector Commission recently recommended that aspects of the prison system such as catering be privatised.

Trevor Hamilton and Associates was hired, with assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in the aftermath of the March 2016 deadly fire at the Camp Street jail.

So far, authorities have said that none of the prisoners was burnt or killed in the inferno on Sunday, July 9, 2017.

Two of eight prisoners have since been recaptured, and one prison officer, Odinga Wickhan, succumbed to gunshot injuries. Seriously injured Prison Officer, Hubert Trim, is among seven other prison officers who remain hospitalised. Two prisoners who attempted to flee during the fire were shot.

Authorities on Thursday reported that of the 1,000 odd prisoners who had been relocated to a walled pasture at Lusignan, 372 have been sent to several other prisons in New Amsterdam, Lusignan, Timehri and Mazaruni.

Eighty-three others have been either granted early release, released on self-bail or paid reduced cash bail.

The still standing brick prison at Camp Street is being repaired to accommodate 250 inmates and roofs are being built on an asphalted area at Lusignan to hold the remainder.