Of a total of 2,245 prisoners housed at the various prisons across Guyana, 1,484 are there on conviction, according to the Acting Director of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS), Gladwin Samuels.
“Many of these young offenders are fathers and were the sole breadwinners. But these persons got lost somewhere along the way,” Samuels said Sunday at a Thanksgiving Service to begin Prison Service Week, which is being observed under the theme: “Revitalising a purpose-driven organization.”
The prison population is made up of 2, 165 men; of the convicted prisoners, which represent 52.8% of the prison population, 784 are between the ages of 18 and 36.
He said that rehabilitating prisoners for reintegration into society when their time is up is key on the agenda.
But he said much more needs to be done if the Prison Service were to successfully carry out that mandate and at the same time ensure that Guyana’s prisons are compliant with United Nations internationally accepted standards.
He said the prisons houses arsonists, child rapists, choke and robbers, drug addicts, drug lords, the seemingly mentally insane, murderers, petty thieves, scam artists plus offenders with various diseases.
“Many current and future offenders will return to society and be a part of our communities and even a part of our families.
“If we fail to try to rehabilitate them, if we fail to give them a second chance, if we continue to fail to adequately address their training needs, we will then cause them to return to a life of crime (and) they will be sent back to us.”
The Prison Director (ag) lauded prison officers for their work under challenging conditions.
“For too long our Prison Officers are not being given the respect they deserve. While the present remuneration packages can do with some improvement, I thank Almighty God daily for all the good purpose-driven Officers in our midst who continue to work against all the odds,” he told those gathered, including Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan.
He noted that though the prisoners are skilful in what they do, the officers are required to be non-judgmental and ensure that the human rights of offenders are upheld even when they are not adequately equipped to perform their functions.
However, he committed to weeding out rouge elements from the service whom he described as “salt and pepper in a fresh wound.”
He disclosed that 28 ranks were dismissed this year, including 11 were for trafficking-related activities.
Currently, Samuels said there are 12 ranks interdicted from duty, nine of whom are charged either departmentally or criminally for trafficking-related activities.
Following the 2017 fire, which destroyed majority of the Camp Street prisons and forced authorities to move prisoners to other already strained facilities across the country, the Prison Service is working to rebuild and improve its prisons.
The fire also saw the death of Prison Officer Wickham and injuries to many others.
The acting Director described 2017-2018 as a tough period for the GPS.
The Government is currently working to rebuild the Camp Street facility while at the same time working on the expansion of the Mazaruni facility.
“Those facilities are being re-designed in keeping with international standards and are being closely supervised to ensure we get value-for-money. The government is also working on getting us much-needed technology,” he told those gathered.
He pointed out that 2018 saw the approval of $44 929 926 for the upgrade of CCTV at Mazaruni and New Amsterdam Prisons.
In light of the constant breaches at points of entry, while the authorities await the procurement of scanners, “we have requested the inclusion of a program to acquire and install additional cameras.
“We are also trying to duplicate the viewing points so as to stem the prevalence of collusion,” Samuels disclosed.
At the Mazaruni Prison, the GPS has also signed a $39.5 million contract that would see the drilling of wells and the establishment of a water treatment facility for that location given complaints about the quality of drinking water.