President termed prison riot as “accident waiting to happen”, confirms eight prisoners on the run

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The Head of State on Tuesday (July 11, 2017) confirmed that eight fugitives are on the run following the Georgetown Prison riot.

The President was at the time visiting the ruins of the prison which was set ablaze on Sunday, (July 09, 2017) along with several Ministers of Government.

“The Director of Prisons has advised us that there is only, at this stage, eight persons unaccounted for from the total prison population. Everybody else has been accounted for,” he related.

According to Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels at a Press Conference on Sunday evening, Mark Royden Williams, called ‘Durant’ and ‘Smallie’ who was February this year sentenced to death for his part in the Bartica massacre of February 17, 2008, is the mastermind behind the riot. He said Williams sought his freedom and plotted with another prisoner to set the prison afire and then escaped.

Of 1,018 prisoners at the facility on the day of the incident, Williams is one of eight persons on the run. It is unclear whether the eight accounted for Shamudeen Mohamed from Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo, who was recaptured on Monday night.

However, the President told reporters that “This (was) an accident waiting to happen, and equally I would say, New Amsterdam a …structure too.”

The Police have only thus far issued Wanted Bulletins for three of the fugitives and had stated that one was unidentifiable since his face was covered when he escaped.

Some of the prisoners were transferred to the News Amsterdam Prison following the fire where the buildings were reduced to ashes, while some were transported to Mazaruni and Timehri. Others are being kept at Lusignan where some of the petty offenders are being facilitated bail.

The Prison riot occurred almost one year, four months after another fire at the facility claimed 16 lives.

Following the March 2016 fire, a Commission of Inquiry was launched from which several recommendations were made to ease the overcrowding at the holding facilities at Camp Street. The President said that the administration was in the process of extending the Mazaruni Prisons when the tragedy occurred.

“We were aware of the situation and were acting on the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and we knew that we had to strengthen Mazaruni, money has been provided and the administration was actually in the process of expanding the facilities, improving the facilities at Mazaruni when this occurred,” he said.

Further questions were asked about the rebuilding of another structure to which the President assured that “the Ministry of Public Security will have a more secure facility that is not susceptible to this cycle of breakouts that we’ve been having.”

He noted that what may have been adequate decades ago when the prison was built “is certainly not adequate now.”

“I think we definitely have to go back to the drawing board to determine what type of facility we need and I would like to…discuss with the Minister of Public Security and the Cabinet but we are not going to have the same type of facility here again. The devastation here is almost total and we don’t have any intention of rebuilding it as it was before,” he added.

During a previous interview with state media operatives, Minister of Public Security implied that the prison will be rebuilt at the same location.

Also present during the visit were Ministers Raphael Trotman, Basil Williams, Cathy Hughes, Noel Holder, Jaipaul Sharma, Ronald Bulkan, David Patterson and Moses Nagamootoo.

By Bibi Khatoon

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