2 prisoners killed in Lusignan Prison during unrest
…meeting with Ministers ends abruptly
Two prisoners at the Lusignan Prison are now dead after they were shot on Saturday by Prison Officers during an unrest at the facility.
Dead are Earl Graham, 51, who was serving three months jail time for malicious wounding, assault and resisting arrest and Winston Herbert, 21, who was facing a rape charge. Five other inmates were also injured.
Reports are that on Saturday morning at about 07:30h prisoners refused to accept meals as they called for a meeting with the Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn and Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony to discuss their concerns over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation at the prison. The call for the meeting stemmed from the announcement that two inmates at the facility tested positive for the virus.
The Guyana Prison Service (GPS) in a statement said that administrators at the facility engaged the prisoners to hear their concerns and to address those where possible. However, the prisoners refused to engage the administrators and demanded to see the Minister. According to the GPS statement, at 12:30h attempts were made to distribute the midday meal but again the prisoners continued their refusal and increased their demand to see the Ministers.
Both the Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn and Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony visited the Holding Bays at Lusignan at about 13:15h.
“The Ministers were loudly cheered and welcomed on entering the facility. They commenced a discussion with nominated representatives of the prisoners from Holding Bay 2. During this engagement, all the prisoners appeared calm and those being engaged appeared receptive,” the GPS said in its statement.
Concerns surrounding extensive timelines between court hearings and remand, among other issues, were raised with the Ministers, who committed to address those within their scope. The Ministers reminded the prisoners that the ability to address the issues within the remit of the courts was outside their authority but would be brought to the attention of those with those responsibilities.
The issue of overcrowding and the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic, due to recent positive test results amongst inmates, were also raised.
“The response was generally well-received, but during the subsequent discussion by the Ministers with inmates of Holding Bay One, some prisoners from Bays Two, Three and Four became aggressive and began throwing missiles which caused the Ministers to end engagement and exit the confines of the compound,” the statement read.
After the Ministers exited the main gate, the situation rapidly degenerated and became riotous with some prisoners scaling the inner fence of the Holding Bay, thus entering the restricted area, and launching attacks on the prison officers within the compound, who had to flee to safety.
The GPS reported that the situation rapidly deteriorated into mass disorder with inmates rushing the main gate in a bid to break same. In response to the situation, and in a bid to contain same, ranks posted within the towers discharged several shots in the general direction of the gate, which resulted in the injury of seven inmates and restoration of relative calm to the situation.
Following the return to order, the injured prisoners were extracted and initially attended to by medical personnel on the ground and two were rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Three inmates continued to be attended to at the Lusignan facility while Graham and Herbert were pronounced dead. The condition of the two inmates at the GPHC has since been listed as stable while the three others are at the Lusignan Prison medical area. (G9)