Deputy Director of Prisons, Senior Superintendent Gladwin Samuels, has denied that he gave instructions for the doors to be locked at the prison cell at the March 3 riots which left 17 inmates dead.
Taking the stand at Tuesday afternoon’s session of the Commission of Inquiry into the deadly Camp Street jail unrest, Samuels refuted the testimonies of many inmates stating that he in fact gave instructions to open the door after he discovered the fire in Capital A.
“I went in the prison yard down the step and I instructed that the door be opened so that those persons who wish to come out can come out,” Samuels testified.
Samuels also told the Commission of the instructions which he gave after ranks encountered difficulty in opening the door in Capital A block. Samuels stated that he instructed to have the door to Capital B opened so that prisoners who were in Capital A could have used the hole they created in the wall to go across to Capital B.
He also told the Commission of tensions that existed between prisoners in Capital A and B.
“There are several persons from Capital A who have problems with persons from Capital B… the prisoners in Capital B indicated that they were receiving threats from the prisoners in Capital A as it relates to them coming out. We left the door to Capital B open and the officers went downstairs. That was with the aim of removing any confrontation with the prisoners so that they had a free passage to come outside,” Samuels posited.
Earlier in his testimony, Samuels explained that he and the Officer In charge of Camp Street Prison, Kelvin Pilgrim, heard a loud bang on the expanding mesh which was discovered to be “a large chunk of concrete” that was broken from the separation wall.
He further explained that these bricks were what inmates used to pelt Joint Service members. These hostile actions had caused Firemen to exercise caution in their attempt to out the blaze.
With regards to concerns over use of force, Samuels stated that the Guyana Prison Service does not use teargas smoke or tasers.
The Deputy Director was then asked to demonstrate on a replica of the prison door. At this stage, Samuels denied that any plastic cork material was used to block the door.
Samuels further noted that the news of the riots spread very quickly as media operatives were called even before he exited the prison.
The Deputy Director also told Commissioners that his life and that of his family has been affected as people have been pointing him out as being responsible for the events leading to the prisoner’s deaths.
Many of the prisoners had laid the blame on Samuels, stating that he had given the instruction for the door to be locked. He was sent on leave to facilitate the Commission’s proceedings. At least 15 inmates lost their lives principally attributed the fire while the Guyana Fire Service investigation revealed that 2 of the inmates died from causes other than the fire.
Samuels was of the view that many of inmates’ testimonies may be slanted due to fear of attacks from fellow prisoners. The Deputy Director of Prisons will resume his testimony at this morning session where cross-examination is slated to occur.