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Criminal justice system tends to use incarceration as defaults action- IDB says as it approves US$8M

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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved US$8M to help Guyana reduce overcrowding in its prisons.

The bank said the funds will help overcome prison overcrowding by reducing pre-trial detentions and increasing the use of alternative sentencing, among other measures.

“The loan’s objective is to contribute to the high concentrations of prison population in the country, which stands at 256 per 100,000 of national population, well above the world average of 146 per 100, 000,” the IDB said, adding “the Guyanese criminal justice system tends to use incarceration as the defaults action.”

But the IDB said high rates of imprisonment “have been associated with an individual’s future proclivity for crime and difficulties in securing employment, among other negative factors.”

Building or expanding prison facilities can be a short-term fix for overcrowding; but, if root causes are not addressed, the new facilities will eventually be filled, the financial institution said.

Its aid the project is divided into two components. The first component seeks to reduce the use of pre-trial detention, especially for individuals accused of minor offenses.

“The idea is to provide better legal assistance to individuals accused of non-violent offenses, improve the prosecutors’ ability to handle cases according to the seriousness of the offense, strengthen the judiciary, and design and implement a restorative justice programme,” the IDB said.

It said a second component seeks to increase the use of alternative sentencing by the criminal justice system in Guyana.

This includes strengthening the country’s legal drafting functions, modernizing probation services and implementing a pilot project at the Magistrate Court level to apply alternatives to imprisonment to non-violent offenders, the IDB said.

It said the program is designed to complement a previously approved citizen security programme targeting high crime neighbourhoods.

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