THOUGH not pleased with the current situation, the Working Peoples’ Alliance (WPA) is convinced that the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government “is doing all it can” to arrest the problems affecting the penal system.
One year after 17 prisoners were killed in an inferno at the Georgetown Prison at Camp Street, Guyana was once again sent into a shock when the said Georgetown Prison went up in flames earlier this month – a fire set by a group of high-profile prisoners, who made good their escape. The situation was further compounded when 13 of the more than 1000 transferred prisoners escaped from the Lusignan Prison’s compound where they were being held in a pasture. To date, approximately nine escapees are on the run, the others were captured.
In addressing this national issue on Wednesday, during a press conference at Rodney’s House, WPA Executive Member, Dr. David Hinds said he believes the Government is doing all it can.
“We feel that the protective services, especially the police, have acted with restraint and we want to draw attention to that because you know in previous times if there was a prison break of that magnitude we were certain that we were going to see dead bodies on the streets, and we want to commend the present government with the handling of the situation in that regard,” Dr. Hinds said.
Dr. Hinds, however, said that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) recommendations which the government had in its hand could have been implemented with more haste. “They could have been some more haste in terms of putting in place and implementing those recommendations”.
WPA Chairperson, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who was also present at the press conference, said the recent jailbreaks are indicative of a breakdown in the administration of the penal system. She said government should do all that is necessary to restore the prison system. “The root causes of the recent prison outbreaks lie in the overcrowding of the prisons; in the abominable conditions in the prisons; poor remuneration of prison officers; the lengthy period of incarceration of persons while awaiting trial; and the fact that a small minority of officers have become compromised,” Sarabo-Halley pointed out.
Sarabo Halley said the party supports the government to address overcrowding. In addition, the top areas of priority are “better working conditions and improved wages and salaries for prison officers”. An immediate campaign aimed at ridding the prison service of corrupt officers and re-educating the force about the importance of integrity is an area which Halley calls to be mounted.
In addition to this being said by Halley, reference was made to, Odinga Wickham, who lost his life in the line of duty at the first prison outbreak. She also emphasised that there is a linkage between poverty and alienation among the country’s youth and our growing crime situation. During the press conference, she said “In this regard, we intend to use our voice within and outside of government to advocate for more social programs aimed at bringing our young people into formal productive sectors”.