Retrofitted containers to be used at prisons for virtual court hearing
In an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, a decision was taken to have retrofitted containers set up at the various prisons across Guyana for inmates to attend court, instead of them having to be transported to the courthouse.
This was disclosed by Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, on his weekly programme – Issues in the News – on Tuesday.
“That is, the establishment of containers that will be converted into courts of law – Magistrate’s Courts – where the prisoners will go and appear in these containers, properly secured. These containers are going to be retrofitted with internet access and huge television, and the prisoners, through technology, will be able to attend court using zoom or some other similar platform, and their cases can be heard that way,” Nandlall explained.
He noted that this initiative was birthed from unprecedented collaboration with the judiciary to ensure that the Criminal Justice System resumes its smooth functioning.
According to Nandlall, magistrates, as well as Police and prison officers, have expressed concerns over the transportation of prisoners who could be infected with the virus.
In September, over 290 inmates at the Lusignan Prison tested positive for COVID-19. They have all recovered, but not before an unrest erupted after the other prisons found out.
During the uproar, two inmates – 51-year-old Earl Graham and 21-year-old Winston Herbert – were shot dead by prison officers, while five others were injured.
A screening and testing campaign for COVID-19 was initiated in the prison upon the outbreak of the virus in the penitentiary. The Health Ministry, along with the Guyana Prison Service, has since been working to put measures in place to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Nevertheless, the Legal Affairs Minister noted that the pandemic has led to staggered hearings of criminal matters, which also compounded the chaotic behaviour of inmates in the prisons.
As a result, the Executive and the Judiciary sat down to work out a modality, which they are in the process of implementing now.
These retrofitted containers will be established at the Lusignan, Georgetown, New Amsterdam and Mazaruni prisons for court hearings.
The Minister noted that these facilities are currently being constructed, and physical work is being done to have the containers installed. He added that electrical adjustments are being done at the prisons to have this important initiative unfold in due course. (G8)