Prison population includes 75 mentally unstable inmates

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By Bibi Khatoon

The prison population in Guyana on any given day is made up of 75 persons who are known to be mentally unstable, according to Prison Director (ag), Gladwyn Samuels.

Samuels noted that these persons were previously housed at the Camp Street prison and given treatment from the Georgetown Public Hospital, however, they are now dispersed across the country following the 2017 fire.

Samuels made the comments during his remarks at the opening of a five day ‘Handling of Vulnerable Prisoners Training Course’ for prison officers, which is being held in collaboration with the Guyana Prison Service and the British High Commission on Monday, February 5, 2018, at the Police Officers Training Centre, Camp Road, Georgetown.

Prison Director (ag), Gladwyn Samuels

“Despite their challenges, they’re part of our population and they ought to be treated with the same respect as others, they ought to be protected from all forms of bullying because in a prison environment if someone is deemed weak, several things can happen to them.

“They can be made to wash people clothes which is a violation of their rights, their food can be taken away by persons who are stronger,” the Prison Director said.

He noted that with the training, prison officers will be able to identify the mentally challenged.

Additionally, as the Government moves to enhance the prison infrastructure, the prison service will be able to adequately cater for those prisoners by providing the necessary segregation and exposing them to the necessary training to aid in their reintegration into society.

Meanwhile, the training is being facilitated by two qualified persons from Trinidad and Tobago.

(L-R) Acting British High Commissioner, Ron Rimmer; Facilitator, Caroline Ravello; Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and officers who are participating in the training

British High Commissioner to Guyana (ag), Ron Rimmer said vulnerable prisoners will be anyone who is at risk of bullying, suicide or self-harm and who need additional support to help them cope in a prison environment.

He noted that the training comes under the UK-sponsored Security Sector Reform Review.

“The training will also help the British High Commission to fulfil its consular responsibility to any British national who may be imprisoned in Guyana,” the diplomat said.

The Commission of Inquiry report into the March 2-4, 2016 Camp Street Prison Riot recommended “an intervention led by the Ministry of Health involving the Magistracy, the Police and the Prison service is needed urgently” to address the issue.

However, it also classified vulnerable prisoners as not only those who are mentally ill but also women, Indigenous persons, substance abusers, HIV+ persons, ageing prisoners and children. The report noted that these persons require special treatment.

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