Letter: Public Security Minister, Prisons Director should resign

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Dear Editor,

Were the authorities aware of the goings-on in the prisons in Guyana over the last 15 months?

Please allow me to list chronologically a few of the shocking incidents that were reported in the media regarding prisoners in Guyana’s most secured jail – following the March 3, 2016, prison fiasco where 17 prisoners were burnt to death after they clashed with Police and prison authorities.

Under the caption, “the seized items are returned to prison officers – Commander”, Guyana Times on April 16, 2016, stated, “the Commission heard the shocking revelation that prison wardens are the ones that sell mobile phones to prisoners. This was the testimony of Carl Brown, an inmate who is currently severing 13 years for murder. It was explained that prisoners can purchase the mobile devices for $7000 in the Camp Street Prison. Brown told Commissioners that he has his seventh phone since being behind bars, and admitted that he would often update his Facebook account about life in prison… Brown had also told the Commission that whenever a phone is seized, a fee is paid and the phone is returned.”

On May 16, 2016, another section of the media reported that a check on the Georgetown prison “unearthed 44 cellphones, 30 cellphone batteries and approximately 173 improvised weapons that included kitchen knives, screwdrivers and a hacksaw blade” and “a quantity of razor blades, lighters, files and tattoo machines”.

After these publicly-known critical incidents, did the authorities take any drastic steps to mitigate the chance of a flare-up or escape? One would expect that each such incident was a vigorous wake-up call for a possible revolt. How could the authorities not see the writing on the wall? The authorities have no excuse. Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and the Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, should resign, following the razing of the Georgetown prison on July 9. The Guyanese people have had to bear the torment of criminals on a day-to-day basis; this prison debacle is more than too much.

The prison should not be rebuilt at the present site since there have been numerous incidents of persons throwing contraband items over the fence to aid a prison revolt and escape. I agree with the many who think it is prudent to build such an institution on one of Guyana’s many islands. The authorities obviously are impotent in handling the prison situation. They should, therefore, seek help urgently and desperately from one of the ‘ABC’ countries to diffuse the despicable situation.

Yours truly,

Devanand Bhagwan

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