New initiative soon to rehabilitate prisons, reduce crime – Benn

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The government will continue to promote the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners with a new initiative called ‘Increasing the Peace in Guyana’, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn told the National Assembly in the ongoing debate of the $552.9 National Budget on Thursday.

While serious crimes have reduced by 20 per cent, there is now an increase in the already overcrowded prison population with a recidivism rate of 13 per cent.

A total of $2.3 billion has also been allocated in the budget towards the enhancement of prison infrastructure across the country.

“I want to quickly speak about an initiative coming from the ministry in respect of persons who exit the prison to re-enter normal life with the ability to take care of themselves and reintegrate it with their families and so in an overall programme called ‘Increasing the Peace in Guyana,” Minister Benn said.

He stated that the government is also looking at several measures so prisoners can have a fresh start. Offenders currently participate in several skills-training programmes offered in the prisons.

“Having them trained and giving them the tools to start out with activities to reduce the level of recidivism in the prisons which are at 13 per cent overall and 9 per cent for first time offenders,” Minister Benn said.

But Benn was keen to note that to have ‘peace’ in the country, the government must start professional democratic and policy exchange in the National Assembly.

“We need full partnership and a better understanding of the initiative being proposed by the government.

“In respect of pulling us out of poverty and passing on a better viable and more secure life to the new generation of Guyanese,” Benn noted while further stating that this can only be achieved with cooperation from the opposition.

“It won’t happen if they really can’t come up with a leader,” Benn said.

Opposition Parliamentarian Geeta Chandan-Edmond

Meanwhile, opposition Parliamentarian Geeta Chandan-Edmond, who spoke before Minister Benn, recommended that public security must be reimagined in the oil and gas producing nation.

Chandan-Edmond noted that the country’s security apparatus must also be modernised to be prepared for any possibility.

She also called for the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee involving various agencies such as finance, social protection and agriculture to deal specifically with public security.

To this end, Minister Benn responded that there is already a national security council set up to deal with this.

A total of $47.9 billion has been allocated for the Home Affairs Ministry and will see improved training of police officers, expanding of video surveillance monitoring in Georgetown, boosting the capacity of the Guyana Fire Service and the reconstruction of the Brickdam Police Station.

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