Conditions good but prison service eyes more comfortable, secure housing for inmates
The Guyana Prison Service is well on its way to transform former agricultural lands it once farmed at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara into new holding areas for inmates.
The self-contained and dormitory setting facilities will cost the state some $1.2 billion with 25 per cent of the work already complete; it should be ready for housing by early 2022.
Director of Prisons (ag) Nicklon Elliot took members of the media on a tour of the facility on Wednesday which extended into the existing holding and quarantine areas, the kitchen and the old Lusignan Prison.
“Prisoners will be housed with beds and mattresses… prisoners will be housed in a more comfortable setting,” Elliott said.
Roughly 1,000 prisoners were taken to the Lusignan facility, initially constructed to house just about 200 prisoners, following the fire that gutted the Camp Street Prions in 2017.
As such, a holding area had been tarmacked and roofed to temporarily house these displaced inmates. The new modern building will have a fire suppression system and access to adequate water with adherence to all international specifications for the housing of prisoners.
The new holding areas will also be divided based on the severity of crimes. The current holding area currently houses just over 800 prisoners.
Elliott explained that upon completion, the three modern and highly secure facilities will be able to house over 1,000 prisoners and ease congestion.
As it relates to overcrowding, he said there is little the prison service can do to refuse persons sent there by the justice system.
“Magistrates decide who should be sent to prison and once that decision is made we don’t have any alternative but to accept those persons here,” the Prison Director added.
Upon completion, the current holding bay will be relocated with plans afoot to construct a trade school in the current holding bay area.
There are also plans to move the female prison from New Amsterdam, Berbice to Lusignan. The women will be housed in the old Lusignan Prion.
During the tour of the facility, media operatives were able to see inmates in classes and inmates working along with prison officials to prepare their meals.
Elliott assured that the conditions were good, allowing for the quarantining of new inmates. He noted, however, that efforts are continuing to improve those conditions.