… to house prisoners, boost security
Government will be moving to the National Assembly to seek supplementary financing likely to exceed $500 million in an effort to house prisoners, boost security at the existing prisons and deal with the fallout from the disastrous fire on July 9, 2017, that gutted the Camp Street Prison. This was disclosed during a press conference at the Public Security Ministry on Friday. According to Public
Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, the Ministry had come up with a fast-tracked plan pertaining to what temporary constructions would be erected.
“At least (for) the purpose of building the prison and the tarmac area, the removal of debris, I haven’t gotten the final figure…These contractors and quantity surveyors are working hard. But by Monday certainly (we will have final figure), because we have to go for the supplementary budgetary allocations by Tuesday or whenever the next parliamentary date. And it will be, as I’m being told, in excess of $500 million,” Ramjattan told a media conference.
He noted that this was to ensure that the prisoners being housed at Lusignan
penitentiary could be relocated to the remaining brick structure at Camp Street. According to Ramjattan, these constructions will be temporary. “We require, for the support of those prisoners, a kitchen be constructed, an admin building and infirmary to be constructed. And it will be quite costly though it will be temporary. All these major constructions that will make the place safe will cost a good set of money.”
“But the plans, in terms of what we have to construct and security systems (that) have been designed, during the last 72 hours,” the Minister proclaimed. “Because that was (something) we had to fast track.”
Ramjattan also spoke of advances that Government has made, including the completion of a tarmac area for the displaced prisoners at Lusignan. “There have been some major accomplishments. At this stage the tarmac area at Lusignan has been completed and there have been some minor difficulties (that were) corrected to the extent that at least 400 prisoners are now there in better conditions than in the swamp area they were in,” he said.
He added that there are still 80 prisoners in the swamp area. “We felt that it was necessary because we do not want them to contaminate the four hundred prisoners that are in the tarmac area. These are the real bad ones that have done a number of acts which make us believe that if they were to go into that tarmac area, there would be real trouble.” He also noted that there are 151 prisoners in the actual prison at Lusignan. The Minister also reported that the charred debris from the Camp Street site has been removed. The fire which razed the Camp Street Prison occurred on July 9, resulting in over 1000 prisoners being displaced. While some were moved to Mazaruni or granted early release or bail, a contingent had remained at Lusignan under strained circumstances.
Dollars and cents
Currently there are plans for the phased construction of a four-storey prison as part of the expansion at Mazaruni, which is scheduled to start this year.
Ramjattan has said that building a new prison could end up costing the Government $6 billion. But after the completion of the prison design by VIKAB Engineering Consultants Ltd, the first phase of building the prison at Mazaruni will commence. The security sector is one of the priority areas of Government. For 2016, a sum of $24.6 billion was announced by the Government, ostensibly to develop and modernise the security sector inclusive of the prison service. In 2015, the coalition Government had allocated $21 billion in their inaugural budget towards the security sector. Some $11.9 billion had been allocated from that sum in order to support the operations of the Disciplined Services; the Guyana Prison Service, Fire Service and the Guyana Police Force.
Last year March, however, a fire raged through the Camp Street Prison and claimed the lives of 17 prisoners. Afterwards, a Commission of Inquiry which cost the Treasury $13 million was ordered by President David Granger.
According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, the combination of overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement are all ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent. Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prison to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons. But some of these recommendations were not implemented at the time of the fire.