A Trade Instructions Officer at the Camp Street Prison was temporarily blinded after inmates threw liquids on him during the deadly riot on March 3, which left 17 prisoners dead.
Prison Officer Owen Charles told the Commission of Inquiry that the liquid substance thrown at him was a mixture of “Jeyes fluid, pepper and another unknown matter.” His blindness he said lasted for some 4-5 minutes.
Charles also stated that he was rushed to the prison infirmary where the medex used saline water to restore his sight. When
commissioners asked the witness why prisoners would have Jeyes fluid in their possession, Charles explained that the inmates are usually given the disinfectant to clean the bathroom area and often times they would retain.
Charles also told commissioners that when he was on the catwalk, he witnessed inmates with their improvised weapons. He noted that at this point there was no other choice than to comply with the order to lock the door as inmates could have possibly escaped the prison compound.
“I had to comply with that order because of the aggressiveness in inmates at that time… had they overrun us on the landing and make it into the yard, what wouldda be the end result… if they make it over the fence, society woulda be in chaos,” stressed the Trade Officer.
The witness also told the CoI that he teaches inmates joinery and carpentry so that when they leave the penitentiary, they can find employment. He noted that one of the former inmates he trained is now a construction supervisor.
It was suggested that prison beds be made out of “low density” hard wood and ply board so as to prevent inmates from utilizing bed metals as improvised weapons.
Chief Officer of the Guyana Prison Service, Peter Barker, who joined the service 14 years ago told the CoI that he remember when one of his officers had pushed the key in the door but could not turn it. This testimony comes in light of the account of numerous witnesses that inmates had tampered with the door before the time of the fire.
Barker told the CoI that the Capital A door was opened on March 1 and 2. He professed that in the prison, there are “no faulty locks”.
He also recalled that while firemen were battling the blaze, he ensured the safety of all of the divisions at the jailhouse. After these checks were carried out, the Chief Officer attempted to go into Capital A division to assess the situation but he could not continue as the scene was too “horrible” and he “could not take it.”
Kitchen Officer Gordon Daniels also testified at the proceedings to defend the effectiveness of his department’s operations. He noted that he normally eats the food which he prepares and he further observed that the food is tested both internally and externally. He further noted that inmates are fed thrice daily with meals that are balanced.
Daniels told the Commission that many inmates assist in the preparation of meals and noted that the kitchen needs modern equipment to make its operations more efficient. Some of the cooking is done via firewood. The witness expressed that the food prepared is “fairly satisfactory”.
The hearings resume on Monday.