Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn during an impromptu visit to the Lusignan Prison, East Coast Demerara on Saturday committed to improving the facility as well as the Georgetown, Mazaruni, New Amsterdam and Timehri Prisons.
The improvement will ensure better public safety, a more secure environment for the prison population, improved rehabilitation along with safer and less stressful working conditions for the prison officers and staff.
The Minister along with the Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels, Assistant Director of Prisons Kevin Pilgrim and engineers from the Ministry and Guyana Prison Service toured the Holding Bay, the burnt Lusignan Prison and the COVID-19 isolation facility.
The Minister was briefed by Samuels and by the Officer-in-Charge Holding Bay Senior Superintendent of Prisons (ag), Deoraj Gyandat on the administration of the prison population, security challenges, COVID-19 initiatives among other pertinent issues.
The Prison Director in a statement noted that recommendations for meeting some of the challenges were also discussed.
However, one of the priorities will be the construction of additional areas so that social distancing can be practiced.
This will also allow for better supervision and management of the prisoners to be conducted.
The Prison Director and engineers will now have to develop plans to improve the Lusignan location.
Visits were also made to the kitchen area and the livestock sections. Samuels said the Minister was further made aware of what can be achieved if requests for additional land and other resources are approved.
The Minister was also brought up to date on the current status for court hearings at the various levels – Magisterial, High Court and Court of Appeal.
Inmates was also given to chance to make representations on their accommodations, court hearings, legal assistance, food, family visits, recreational diversions and counselling services.
Minister Benn after the tour and seeing the challenges first-hand expressed his concern that these conditions are very unsatisfactory.
On July 12, 2020 a section of the Lusignan Prison was burnt to the ground after the beating of an inmate at the hands of four prison officers along with the seizure of a quantity of marijuana, one cell phone and alcohol led to unrest.
Quick action by the Joint Services prevented any escapes and no one was seriously injured.
Most recently, on August 17, an inmate at the prison 40-year-old Shawn Peters died after he was attacked and chopped by four other inmates.
The Prisons Director had reported that the altercation stemmed from a grievance between the suspects and the victims before they were imprisoned.
CCTV footage captured the incident and allowed the Administration to positively identify the perpetrators of the fatal incident.