“Operation Restore Order” retrieves hundreds of contraband items at Camp Street Prison
by Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
- How would you describe Saturday’s operation at the Georgetown Prison?
The operation was a unified effort led by the Director of Prisons, Carl Graham
, and Superintendent Kevin Pilgrim of the Guyana Prison Service, Senior Superintendent Bacchus of the Guyana Police Force and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Todd of the Tactical Services Unit, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Compton Sparman of the Guyana Fire Service, and a Lt. Col of the Guyana Defence Force. Joint Servic3es Counsel Selwyn Pieters was on the ground to provide legal support as needed.
The operation was relatively successful in terms of the extraction of the inmates identified as “ringleaders” or for reasons of the institutional security that needed to be transferred to other prisons. There was some active resistance and threats from inmates Treon Douglas and Carl Browne, however, those threats were neutralized very quickly and with minimal use of force.
The inmates from the Capital Division were evacuated very quickly, searched, and in an orderly manner placed in the cage area where they were fed. They were subsequently addressed by the Director of Prisons. No complaints were made to the Director about the conduct of the search.
The entirety of the search was video recorded by various recorders from the joint services. Video recording has its currency as it controls the conduct of inmates and officers who would have observed that everything is being captured for any after action review and/or to respond to any allegations that may have arisen.
It is clear that the prison had to be sanitized of illegal weapons that are in the possession of inmate. It is also clear that the cellphones to the extent that it is possible had to be seized. The nature, scope and variety of 9improvised weapons located are a serious cause for concern and adds currency to the concerns that the officers related post March 03, 2016 in respect to the fear for their lives in the yard.
- Why the lengthy wait for the search?
The human capacity to dominate the prison was an important consideration. As well, a properly constructed operational plan that works for all of the joint services commanders was important.
Paramount in the plan was to preserve and protect the lives of officers, inmates and the public.
That objective was achieved.
- As legal counsel representing the prison and police officials, what as your role in the operation?
My role was to ensure all officers understood section13 of the Prison Act and the objective conditions that must be evident for the Standard Operating Procedures and rules of engagement to come into play.
Legal counsel role was also to emphasize that the law and Standard Operating Procedures must be followed to deal with the threat at hand.
- How is it that so many of those items could have possibly gotten into the hands of prisoners even after the March 2 and 3 searches at the jail?
The wooden structures of the Georgetown Prison make it exceedingly difficult to search. In addition, recall that on March 04, 2016, the inner cordon of the Georgetown Prison was completely taken over by inmates. A lot of weapon, knives, scissors etc may have been obtained on March 04, 2016. Alternatively some may have been missed during the search.
- What actions would be taken to ensure no more contraband items enter the jail?
That is a difficult question. It involved issues of ethics, trust, loyalty and security. If every rank, officer, visitor and civilian understand these tenets and stick to it, contraband being introduced into the prison could be at its minimal.
Inmates will find creative ways to introduce contraband into the prison. As well, there will always be persons who are ethically compromised so that whatever the risk they will “try a thing” to make a few dollars.
- Also if any officer is found to be responsible for smuggling contraband items into the jail, what actions will be taken against such officer?
As I understand it officers found smuggling contraband are dealt with departmentally. If it is serious enough the Guyana Police Force is called in and criminal charges are laid.
- Is there anyone arrested or who would be charged in connection with the finds?
I cannot say that is a matter for the Guyana Police Force. However, it is difficult to charge anyone if the item found is not directly tied to that person. If items are found in a common area inhabited by 60 inmates it would be difficult to charge one person unless, say a cellphone is found that is clearly linked to that individual and say is used for extortion, threats or other scams.
- What was the most common of the contraband item found?
Cigarette lighters and improvised weapons were the most items found. That was followed closely by marijuana.
- What is the impact of this massive seizure and the transferral of the inmates on the operations of the prison?
Hopefully the impact of this massive seizure and the transferral of the inmates on the operations of the prison would be that inmates that remain at the prison could be assured that they no longer require improvised weapons to protect themselves from the “ringleaders” or “bullies” that posed a threat to them and the officers at the Camp Street Prison.
Hopefully, inmates will, as the Director urged, used constructive means to resolve disputes. Turning to violence helps no one.
In terms of officers the operation hopefully will restore their confidence that the state security apparatus from the respective joint services are completely with them as they perform their duties and will assist, when and where, required to restore order.