Prisons head recommends ‘ankle bracelets’ to reduce overcrowding

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Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels on Monday recommended the use of electronic monitoring in the form of ‘ankle bracelets’ as an alternative to sentencing for non-violent offenders.

With a prison population of 1,884 persons, of which 744 are pre-trial detainees, 340 are on remand and 404 awaiting trial, Samuels said not everyone in the prison system needs to be there.

“If I’m to make a recommendation in light of the challenges I have heard put forward as to why alternative sentencing is not used as it should, I would wish to propose that the necessary law amendments be looked at so that Guyana can utilise electronic monitoring,” he said referring to persons who are charged for narcotics related offences.

Samuels was at the time addressing the media at a press conference on the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded justice reform project which seeks to reduce overcrowding in the prisons.

Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels [News Room photo/ November 23, 2020]
The electronic monitoring technology or ‘ankle bracelets’ are promoted as a humane alternative to jail. It uses Global Positioning System (GPS) to track someone’s location to ensure that they stay within a certain jurisdiction.

In a subsequent interview with the News Room, Samuels explained that the technology is not provided for in the current laws and as such, amendments are necessary.

He pointed out that in the majority of the cases where persons were remanded for minor offences, prosecutors argued that they may not return to court; a problem he believes can be solved with the use of electronic monitoring.

The Prisons Director said the facilities are currently overcrowded by 29.7%, but with the exception of the holding bay at the Lusignan Prison which he later compared to a refugee camp, the overcrowding is actually 51% or 961 more prisoners than the facilities can accommodate.

The holding bay was built following the 2017 fire at the Georgetown prisons which was set by disgruntled inmates.

Overcrowding is further worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic during which Samuels said areas previously designated for recreation and reintegration are now being used for holding inmates.

With the training of more prosecutors, the government is looking to make use of alternative sentencing, reduce preliminary trial time and put other systems in place to improve the justice system.

The Attorney General Chambers is also developing a Bail Bill to ensure uniformity in the granting of bail and sentencing guidelines.

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