Staff shortage, lack of CCTV coverage contributed to Lusignan prison escape

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An investigation into the most recent prison escape from the Lusignan Prison holding bay has found that were was a lack of adequate CCTV cameras and staff, according to Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels.

“Two of our major problems (have) to do with the absence of physical infrastructure and human resource.

“On the night in question, a human resource deficit would have significantly contributed to what happened.

“…Unfortunately, [CCTV] did not provide the level of coverage we wanted the night,” Samuels told the media at the sidelines of an event on Monday.

The Prisons Director explained that the CCTV system was damaged some time ago and efforts are being made to restore it to its full capacity.

Two prisoners –48-year-old Phillip Jhogroo of Goed Intent, Leguan, Region Three and convicted 40-year-old Donald Baird of Hardina Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown –escaped from the Lusignan Prison holding bay on Saturday night using a rope made from bedsheets.

Phillip Jhogroo and Donald Baird are the two escapees (Guyana Prison Service Photo/November 21, 2020)

Samuels said with 519 prisoners, 25 officers are needed to man the facility but “on the night in question, it was 30% of that.”

Despite this, he believed the ranks should have been more alert.

“I am not going to use that as an excuse because in my view if the ranks on duty were more alert, the escape of the prisoners should have been detected,” the Director said.

The Guyana Prison Service (GPS) first reported that three prisoners were missing but 24hrs later corrected this information.

Explaining what transpired, the Director said the first count showed that three persons were missing. However, when the Deputy Director of Prisons visited the location, he was informed that one of the men who was previously named as missing was found at the facility.

This, he said, occurred because a physical muster was not done the way it should and the officers have since been warned.

Samuels compared the holding bay to that of a refugee camp noting that that also posed its challenges.

“The configuration of the holding bay is crazy. If you’ve heard of a refugee camp, it is very close to that,” he told the media.

In a separate interview on Monday, Minister of Home affairs Robeson Benn warned the men’s family and friends against assisting them in anyway as they are on the run.

“I want to encourage their family members and their friends not to provide them with any aid or supper,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the launch of road safety week.

But the Minister posited that the frequent prison escape from the Lusignan facility is as a result of poor administrative systems and corrupt prison officers.

He pointed that several prison officers have been fired for smuggling contraband items into the facility.

Just last month, three prisoners escaped from the Lusignan prison of which two were recaptured to date.

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