Repeat prison escapes likely due to staff shortages – Samuels

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Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels

By Jarryl Bryan

Director of Prison Gladwin Samuels is of the determination that the repeat instances of inmates escaping from the Lusignan Prison is likely due to staff shortages at the facility.

Samuels made this revelation on the sidelines of an event earlier today where he was quizzed by media practitioners on the increase in cases of inmates escaping from the East Coast Demerara facility.

The Prison Director admitted that the shortage of prison officers is a challenge, but that they are in the process of recruiting additional staff to be trained.

“If you look at a population of 500 prisoners, really you should have more than 25 staff on duty. On the night in question [of the recent escape] it was thirty per cent of that,” he said.

He explained that in cases where there are escapes, the staff compliment is similar.

“That is why, through the Ministry of Home affairs, we have received the greenlight to recruit 28 recruits, who we have commenced training with. We have also been given directives for how we can add to our staffing. Those recommendations are being looked at.”

According to Samuels, there are several factors that would lead to them being short of staff.

“There are a number of issues that would affect the number of staff available to work at the prison. You have persons who have to be given off-duty. They may have to report sick. Several times you may have prisoners in hospital. We have to provide staff to oversee them,” he explained.

He noted that all these factors, coupled with already reduced staff, have contributed to the shortfall. However, Samuels assured that this was not being used as an excuse.

“We still have to make best use with the resources we have, to ensure that this nation is safe,” he affirmed.

Recently, two prisoners escaped from the Lusignan Prison Holding Bay. Those who escaped are Phillip Jhogroo of Lot B3 Good Intent, Leguan, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and Donald Baird of Hardina Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown – both of whom were indicted for murder.

It was reported that the escape occurred between 01:28h and 01:48h on Saturday. However, Officer in Charge, Superintendent Alstan Scott reported the matter a few hours later.

It was during a routine check that an improvised rope made of bed sheets was seen hanging from the southwestern corner of the prison fence.

This prompted a physical muster and it was discovered that the aforementioned prisoners were unaccounted for. Further investigations confirmed that they escaped from the facility by scaling the section of the fence where the improvised rope was found.

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) is also part of the team that is probing the incident and working to recapture the criminals. Family members are warned not to offer any support to the escaped inmates.

Last month, three inmates also escaped from the Lusignan Prison by jumping a fence. After a manhunt was launched, two of them were recaptured at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) hours later.

Those recaptured were: Alex Mathias of Good Hope Dock Yard, Essequibo, who was committed to stand trial for murder with his case underway at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court, and Arnold Kennedy, of Lot 847 Zeeburg Housing Scheme, West Coast Demerara (WCD).

The third fugitive was Mark Rafino of Good Intent Village, West Bank Demerara (WBD), who is committed to stand trial for robbery.