Prison population increases by 13%
At the end of 2022, the prison population of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) increased by 13 percent with a total of 1,880 persons imprisoned at various penitentiaries across the country.
This means the prison service now houses an additional 736 prisoners than it did in 2021.
This disclosure was made by Director of Prisons (ag), Nicklon Elliot during his remarks at the opening ceremony of the GPS Annual Officers’ Conference on Thursday.
The issue of overcrowding at various prison facilities across the country has been a longstanding concern. And, it has worsened over the years with prison infrastructure being destroyed, particularly at the Lusignan and Camp Street prisons during protests and riots.
In July 2020, there was a major fire at the Lusignan Prison facility which left 11 inmates injured and hundreds dislocated after prisoners set fire to the dorm following a drug seizure.
And, in March 2016, another 17 prisoners were killed in a fire that flattened the Camp Street prison.
And to address the issue, Elliot said there have been continuous improvements in infrastructure with the construction of three structures that will house 900 inmates at the Lusignan Prison.
He said another three buildings under construction at the same facility are scheduled to be completed within a few months.
The Mazaruni Prison is currently being expanded and phase one has since been completed; this phase one expansion will accommodate 220 inmates. Upon completion, phase two of the expansion will house another 150 inmates, Elliot said.
Another major issue that continues to plague the prison system is escapees.
For 2022, Elliot said a total of five escapes were recorded. However, in all of the instances, he noted that the prisoners were recaptured and are back in custody.
“These escapes were mainly due to inadequate physical infrastructure along with the policy infractions made by staff who would have led to those breaches of security,” Elliot noted.
Nevertheless, the prisons director said the overall security of the prison locations could be considered as “satisfactory”.
Meanwhile, he noted that the prison administration continues to create opportunities for rehabilitation for inmates, paving the way for their successful reintegration into society.
To this end, he said over 1,400 inmates were trained last year in the areas of literacy; some did numeracy along with behavioural modification programmes such as stress and anger management and conflict resolution.
And this year, Elliot noted that the GPS will seek to strengthen inter-agency collaboration with all levels of partnership aimed at creating and promoting prisoners rehabilitation and integration, reducing the likelihood of ex-offenders returning to a life of crime and eliminating the issue of stigma and discrimination.