Presently, there are 1917 inmates housed in the various penitentiaries across the country in Guyana. Of this amount, 371 (19 per cent) are persons between the ages of 18 and 30 years.
This is according to Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, who on the occasion of the Guyana Prison Service’s 136th anniversary celebrations stated that of that 19 per cent, there are 354 males and 17 females. Of that total, 62 prisoners (17 per cent) are serving time behind bars for drug-related cases.
He explained that the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) remains concerned about the welfare and rehabilitation of all prisoners and that although revised laws are yet to be passed to see the GPS move formally to a fully correctional institution, in the existing laws, there are sufficient guidelines that allow the GPS to make rehabilitation a critical part of its mandate.
“This is an ongoing exercise…success hinges on the collaboration of the prison authorities, civil society and the Judiciary. Inmates will receive behavioural counselling and job training in the various disciplines mentioned previously, so that on their release they can support themselves, and for some, their families. Civil society can ease their re-entry by not stigmatising them, and providing opportunities for optimum employment wherever possible.”
Samuels explained that families will have to provide the necessary support systems so prisoners who are re-integrated into society after serving their sentences are not pressured to return to a life of crime.
“It will also require the continued resources of our Ministry of Social Protection – one of our major supporters – to monitor inmates’ compliance with the terms of their release. If we are going to be successful, the Government must continue to recognise the Guyana Prison Service for its contribution to society. Improvement of working conditions is a work in progress – much more is required…comparable increases in our take-home pay would be highly appreciated.”
Touching on the issue of infrastructural development, he noted that while inmate warehousing as a policy has no utility value in an emerging economy, the 2020-projected completion of the expansion of the Mazaruni Prison, the rebuilding of Georgetown Prison, the rebuilding of New Amsterdam Prison, and the construction of a multi-complex rehabilitation centre in New Amsterdam are “all good things to look forward to”.
Meanwhile, he emphasised that the administration of the GPS has embarked on aggressive programmes that seek to bridge the gaps between crime, punishment and rehabilitation.
“Any programme that seeks to invest in our offenders’ future relieves the pressure of crime countrywide and enhances our security. Every successful person that is returned to society provides a safety net for families, and reduces the work of the Joint Services. We are poised, as a nation, to enter an unprecedented period of nation-building and prosperity, so we must utilise all possible approaches to secure our country.”
The GPS Director posited that one year ago the GPS had a staff complement of 501 members but even with recruitment there are still spaces that need to be filled.
“We have seen the retirement of 12, resignation of 7 and 24 would have been dismissed for several breaches of prison rules. Today, we have 495 staff members. Despite those challenges, we continue to expose ranks to local and overseas training with the hope of building capacity. Fourteen ranks would have benefited from overseas training for the reporting period,” the Director added.