‘Respect them’ – no emotional or physical abuse of prisoners – Benn tells Prison Service


The government wants an “exemplary” prison system for the country and to address the number of issues being faced, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn believes that the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) needs to have a sense of continuous improvement and to focus more on up-skilling and professionalism.

And in doing this, the Security Minister highlighted that emphasis needs to be placed on the human rights of prisoners.

“They have rights and those rights are human rights…We do not want physical abuse. We do not want emotional abuse. We want them better fed…If you treat people in a cruel manner, if you treat people in an inhumane manner, they would never respect and accept the norms you think you want to impose on them.

“We want them to come out with genuine respect, with genuine engagement, with genuine appreciation that they have done wrong,” Benn said while addressing the opening ceremony of the GPS Annual Officers’ Conference on Thursday.

He urged the Prison Service to work harder to address the plethora of issues being faced within the system.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn addressing the opening of the GPS Annual Officers’ Conference (Photo: Home Affairs Ministry/March 16, 2023)

“We have to work diligently at the issues that we are faced with…The hardest thing of course is people…we could put in all the cameras, we could put in everything and the failures come at the point of a person or the system…We don’t want to return to the 2002 jail break situation. We don’t want to return to the fire which destroyed the Camp Street Prison and killed 17 prisoners and injured many others,” he urged.

The conference is being held under the theme ‘Promoting Rehabilitation and Societal Reintegration of Inmates’.

It is aimed at creating synergies at the managerial level of the GPS, reflecting and learning from the activities, accomplishments and challenges of operations in 2022; building cohesive and coherent strategies for performance improvement this year and devising operational plans that are in alignment with the vision for the prison service.

Meanwhile, in his address, Director of Prisons (ag), Nicklon Elliot said despite the many challenges, the year 2022 can be considered a productive period for the prison service.

The challenges, he said, were mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, overcrowding, shortage of staff, limited physical infrastructure, instances of prison-to-prison violence, contraband in prison and some “undesirable” conduct of staff.

Nevertheless, he said the prison service continues to provide and make appropriate consolidation for its institutional capacity to effectively deliver a better quality of service.

“Notwithstanding the challenges faced by the organisation we will continue all efforts to ensure that there is adequate provision in the area of mechanical and other forms of security interventions to provide a safe environment for employees, inmates and the general public,” Elliott said.

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