Recent incidents within the prison system have given rise to the issue of overcrowding, something which the Guyana Government has been struggling to contain and address.
However, the recent approval of US$8 million in the form of a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank will give Government a head-start in the process.
The Legal Affairs Ministry on Saturday said money has been secured for the “Support for the Criminal Justice System Project”, which became eligible for funding on June 16, 2017. The key objectives of the project are reducing the use of pre-trial detention and increasing the use of alternative sentencing.
According to the statement, since the March 2016 unrest and fire at the Georgetown Prison, Government, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, has been assiduously addressing the issue of overcrowding at the prisons.
The project was scheduled for launch early last week, but had to be delayed due to the recent prison break and fire that destroyed the Camp Street facility.
Nonetheless, the project workshop was held, and the key outputs discussed were establishing a Legal Aid pilot project which would provide legal assistance to persons in pre-trial detention who have been accused of having committed minor, non-violent offences; enhancing the DPP and Police Prosecutors’ capacities to handle their cases before they proceed to trial; building capacity enhancement at the Magistracy level, to expedite cases and address alternative sentencing.
Additional components were: the implementation of a Restorative Justice pilot project under the Legal Affairs Ministry, to solve minor offences or disputes; strengthening the Probation Service Department to perform adequate follow up of treatments delivered in and after prison, so as to better tend to the rehabilitative needs of those who present a lesser risk of reoffending; and strengthening the Law Reform Commission at the Ministry of Legal Affairs in its role of drafting new legislation introducing non-custodial sanctions suitable for different types of offences.
The Legal Affairs Ministry, Supreme Court of Judicature, Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Public Security, Social Protection, and Finance ministries are the main stakeholders of this project. Moreover, in being the executing agency, the Legal Affairs Ministry has demonstrated administrative capacity and commitment to oversee this project.
To this end, a Project Steering Committee chaired by Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams has been established to provide oversight and strategic direction for the project.