Government has set aside over $350 million in 2017, for expansion works at the Mazaruni Prisons located in Region Seven, to accommodate more inmates as part of efforts to address the overcrowding at the Camp Street, Georgetown, facility.
Following the March 2016 riots at the Georgetown penitentiary during which some 17 inmates were killed and several others along with prison staff were injured in a fire, a probe was launched and found, among various issues, significant overcrowding at the facility.
While one of the recommendations made was to build another prison, Government has maintained that such a move is unfeasible, says the Guyana Times.
Nevertheless, the coalition Administration has been devising means of addressing the situation at the city jail and during the 2017 Budget presentation, Finance Minister Winston Jordan announced that in order to offset the overcrowding at Georgetown Prison, the complex at the Mazaruni Prisons will be expanded at a cost of a whopping $2.2 billion, of which $369 million has been catered for in 2017.
This will see the expansion of offices, inmate living facilities, staff and family living facilities, training facilities, as well as the construction of a school, daycare centre, and places of worship.
Meanwhile, President David Granger during this week’s televised programme – The Public Interest – stated that while there are limited things that can be done with a limited budget, Government has injected a significant amount of money into the security sector, particularly the expansion of the Mazaruni Prisons, in order to prevent a recurrence of the March 2016 riots.
“We are going to have more secured facilities so that the likelihood of riots in the future will not be a big concern. We had big problems in 2002 and in 2016 and we are currently working to solve the overcrowding problem,” said the Guyanese leader.
According to Head of State, while the expansion of Region Seven jail house may not fully alleviate the overcrowding situation at the Georgetown facility, it definitely will reduce the amount of inmates held there.
Already, immediately following the March riots, some of the hardcore and long-term prisoners held in the City were transferred to Mazaruni and now with additional space to be created, more inmates will be transferred.
“I can assure you (overcrowding at Georgetown Prisons) will be eased…the long-term, hardcore prisoners will go to Mazaruni, which will remove some of the pressure (at Georgetown)… The Georgetown and New Amsterdam Prisons are built in urban areas and expansions are not possible but we know Georgetown is overcrowded so the major sight at which expansion will take place is Mazaruni,” he explained.
Furthermore, the President believes that the Georgetown penitentiary ought not to have more than 500 prisoners, even though it currently houses sometimes in excess of 800 and/or 900 prisoners.
“So it is incumbent on the Administration to provide accommodation for anything around like 400 to 500 prisoners at Mazaruni; we are not catering to increase the prison population but at the same time we want to make sure that persons who commit serious offences are not let loose into the public – Mazaruni is the place they will be going to,” he asserted.
Moreover, the Head of State went on to outline that another area that Government is looking at to reduce overcrowding at the Georgetown Prisons is examining the sentencing policies so that persons who commit minor offences, which do not necessarily warrant custodial sentences, do not have to go there.
He added too that efforts are apace to speeding up the rate at which persons who commit offences are taken to court so that they are not incarcerated for long periods, waiting for bail or trial.
President Granger is of the view that these measures, along with many others, in the 2017 Budget will ensure that the country will be more secured.