High-level corruption at Lusignan prison involves prison officers – Benn
By Isanella Patoir
Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn is perturbed at the high level of corruption found at the Lusignan prison on the East Coast of Demerara, involving numerous prison officers, most of whom have either been fired or transferred.
Minister Benn told reporters on Monday that the inmates at the Lusignan facility are threatened and targeted by prison officers who demand money from them.
“There are issues with some prisoners there being held to ransom…when they have cellphones, a couple of them [prison officers] would hold on to them.
“Some unfortunate persons, who perhaps [have] money or from whom money could be extorted…they [prison officers] will take a picture or a video and put knives to his throat and say ‘pay money to us…or else’; all of that is going on in the prison,” Minister Benn lamented at the sidelines of an event held at the Parliament Park, Georgetown.
It was found that corruption at the Lusignan prison significantly increased after prisoners were transferred there following the deadly fire at the Camp Street prison in March 2016.
“Maybe they [prisoners] have carried on some of these bad practices to Lusignan, but there have been ongoing issues there.
“Added to the fact that, some people are fed up having not come to trial as yet,” Minister Benn said. As such, virtual court hearings have commenced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lusignan prison has seen its fair share of escapes over the past few years, along with the illegal smuggling of drugs and other prohibited items.
In an effort to ensure the safety and security of the prisoners there, Benn noted that by January 2021, the Mazaruni prison extension should be completed and within a few months, construction at Camp Street is slated to conclude.
This will allow for the transfer of prisoners from Lusignan to reduce overcrowding.
“Hopefully by January month-end, we will commission the new building at Mazaruni and within a month or two of that we will be able to commission the ones at Camp Street.”
Meanwhile, designs have been completed at Lusignan to rebuild a section of the prison which was completely destroyed in a fire in July this year.
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 the unrest and the subsequent burning of the prison.
“Central government has promised to make the money available for work to start and work has started. In the meantime we have expanded the holding bay areas to provide the adequate social distancing and space for the various classes of prisoners,” Minister Benn said.