By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The United States Department has decried the present state of affairs of jails and prisons in Guyana, pointing out that they pose a serious threat to human life.
This is according to the State Department 2014 Report on Human Rights, which featured an extensive exposé on Human Rights in Guyana and other countries around the world.
The 23 page document dedicated to Guyana, details several areas where the Guyana government was either congratulated or recommendations made for improvements. One such area was the present condition of jail cells and other holding facilities.
The Report states that “prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were harsh and life threatening. Overcrowding was a severe problem.”
According to the report, the Camp Street Prison was built to accommodate 775 inmates, but it now houses more than 900 inmates, according to 2011 data.
However, it is expected that this figure would have gradually increased over the years. The 2011 data showed that in total, there were 1,962 prisoners in five facilities with a combined design capacity of 1,580.
“Overcrowding was in large part due to a backlog of pre-trial detainees, who constituted approximately 39 percent of the total prison population,” the report stated adding “although precinct jails were to serve only as pre-trial holding areas, authorities detained some suspects there as long as two years while they awaited judicial action,” the report noted.
Despite these prevailing conditions, it was noted that prisoners had access to potable water, and government medical officers visited each prison on a monthly basis.
“Government authorities reported that medical staff consisting of a medical examiner, registered nurses, and assistant nurses provided daily treatment and monitored the sick as advised by the medical doctors.”
Turning its attention to the Guyana Police Force (GPF), the report pointed out that “inadequate training, poor equipment, and acute budgetary constraints severely limited the GPF’s effectiveness.”
As it relates to corruption in the police force, it was noted that while police force abuses may be reported to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), the authority did not possess an independent investigative unit.
“Lack of an investigative unit hampered the PCA’s efforts to conduct impartial and transparent assessments of the complaints it received…the PCA relied on the GPF to conduct investigations into complaints against its own officers,” the report noted.