Death of Lusignan prisoners regrettable but action was necessary to prevent prison break – Benn
Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn told the National Assembly on Tuesday that the death of two prisoners at the Lusignan prison on the East Coast of Demerara at the weekend was regrettable and sad, confirming that over 100 prisoners at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Benn believes that with the final perimeter of the prison coming under heavy attack and prison wardens under siege, the actions taken were necessary to prevent a prison break.
The Guyana Prison Service had reported that the prisoners were shot by Prison Officers after they attempted to escape. The dead prisoners have been identified as 51-year-old Earl Graham and 21-year-old Winston Herbert.
Benn was made to provide answers to the House after Opposition Member of Parliament, Geeta Chandan- Edmond had put forward several oral questions without notice when the Assembly met to consider the 2020 budget estimates.
The Opposition Member Parliament asked the Home Affairs Minister to disclose the number of prisoners killed, injured, and or hospitalised, the nature and extent of their injuries and cause of death(s).
He said a total of seven prisoners were injured when prison officials responded to the attacks, two of whom died. Three prisoners were transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital for treatment and two remained at the facility.
Benn could not say what the causes of death were or the extent of the injuries the other prisoners sustained. He asked the House to await the autopsy report and further statements from the prison authorities.
Chandan-Edmond asked the Minister of Home Affairs to disclose the causes, circumstances and conditions that led to the disturbance on September 19, 2020, that resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.
Benn confirmed that of the number of prisoners who tested positive for COVID 19, 80 have been transferred to Madewini prison on the East Bank of Demerara.
Importantly, the Minister believes that the major problem at the prion is overcrowding.
“You would recall last Thursday my presentation to House where I referred to conditions at Lusignan prison and identified severe congestion and we were at the time working to improve the conditions to allow for better separation between prisoners,” he said.
He recalled the 2017 fire at the Georgetown prison and the recent fire to the main building at Lusignan which led to prisoners being intermixed in holding bays at Lusignan.