13% inmate population hike credited to increased crime-fighting – Min Benn

…17 officers dismissed in 2022 for non-adherence to Prison rules

The inmate population of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) has grown by 13 per cent for last year, according to acting Director of Prisons, Nicklon Elliot.
He was at the time speaking at the annual Senior Officers Conference of the Guyana Prison Service, on Thursday, March 16, 2023. This conference was organised to promote better operations, create synergies at the managerial level, learn from past challenges, and build coherent strategies for 2023.
Elliot shared that at the end of 2021, the inmate population stood at 1,880; but in 2022, this number was increased to 2,144, which represents a 13 percent increase.

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn, Prison Director Nicklon Elliot and senior officers and officials of the GPS share a photo op at the Annual Conference on Thursday

“I must say this increase in population would have been attributed to the Guyana Police Force and their efforts in fighting crime,” the Prison Director indicated.
It was shared that 2022 was a productive period, despite challenges of post-COVID activities, overcrowding, shortage of staff, limited physical infrastructure, violence among prisoners, contraband, and ‘undesirable’ conduct of officers.
The GPS is seeking to enhance interagency collaboration in 2023, to reduce recidivism levels and reintegrate ex-inmates into society, Elliot outlined.
“In the year 2023, the prison directorate will seek to strengthen inter-agency collaboration at all levels, with the aim of promoting offenders’ reintegration into society, thus reducing the likelihood of ex-offenders returning to a life of crime with aims of eliminating stigma and discrimination towards ex-law offenders.”

Compulsory training programmes were designed to address every class of inmates within the penitentiaries, where 1,415 inmates have been trained in literacy and numeracy, technical and vocational skills, and behaviour modification.
The administration also commenced the Fresh Start Programme, wherein 10 inmates have received tools to earn a sustainable income in cosmetology, tailoring, welding, carpentry, joinery, landscaping, and animal husbandry.
In terms of officer training, 398 personnel were engaged in areas of prison management, human rights, mental health, use of non-lethal weapons, criminology, and leadership.
Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn noted that old crimes are being replaced by a new wave and the issue of transnational crime, which the system is now faced with.
“We have challenges with new forms of crime, new challenges. The Police have to deal with issues of transnational organised crime. The old crimes we are accustomed to doing, having to deal with the question of men and youth. It’s a big challenge. I would say, personally, we missed a big gap when we should have been in a better place,” Benn posited.
He noted that one of the focal areas should be programmes to reintegrate these inmates and prepare them for when they are released.
“It’s no use you have them in there, you spend [money] for feeding, clothing, and housing, and they lay about all day. I would like to see a dozen or more of them coming out and being given the tools and opportunity to do something and earn a living, and support their families,” the Minister voiced.
A vocational school at Lusignan has been completed, and soon prisoners will attend on weekdays. The Minister has called for continuous improvements in areas where positive results are seen.
“We should talk about continuous improvement. Everything we do, once it has a positive impact that we discern, we should put it down as something we should improve. Once you keep improving plans, we develop the synergism, and things will work out,” he said.

Meanwhile, in 2022, 17 ranks were dismissed from the Guyana Prison Service for non-adherence to Prison rules.
“There were 17 ranks who were dismissed from the organization for non-adherence to Prison rules, seven retired, 20 resigned for greater employment opportunities, while three would have died while serving the organization,” Elliot shared.
With a staffing capacity of 601 officers, there is a current complement of 510 personnel – a vacancy for 91 professionals. (G-12)