“We don’t want physical abuse in prisons” – Benn

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn has warned against the use of physical and emotional abuse in penitentiaries across the country, stating that the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) must maintain the human rights of prisoners.
Addressing the issue of inmate treatment in the prison system, the Home Affairs Minister explained that force must only be used as a last resort to bring about order. He cautioned that prisoners are also protected on the basis of human rights.
“Again, I want to emphasise on the question of the rights of prisoners. They have rights and those rights are human rights. I’ve said I don’t want men struck, abused. Only in the last resort to prevent the situation from getting out of order or bring things out of control. We do not want physical abuse. We do not want emotional abuse,” he voiced.
According to Minister Benn, there can be significant investments in infrastructure and security, but failures can come at the point of a person or the system. Reflecting on unfortunate incidents which have occurred throughout the years, he emphasised that the Prison Service must upskill to create an exemplary system, so as to reduce the likelihood of such incidents reoccurring.
Psychiatric counselling, education and reintegration with the community were among the highlighted areas which were recommended for the Guyana Prison Service to shift its focus.
“We don’t want to return to those dangerous days. We don’t want to return to the 2002 jailbreak situation. We don’t want to return to the fire which destroyed the Camp Street Prison and killed 17 prisoners. We don’t want those things. We want an exemplary prison system for our country.”
“The prison system has to deal with the question of upskilling of professionalism. We have to have exchanges with other jurisdictions to learn how to do what they do, to avoid the things which they have learnt from, and to have a sense of continuous improvement,” he shared.
In this light, Benn said attention also needs to be placed on engaging prisoners in activities, rather than having them in a vegetative state during their incarceration.
He directed, “I don’t want them lying about in the prison cells and complexes all day doing nothing. Men not doing anything every day, vegetating – some of them plotting their next move. Some of them are even executing their next move inside the prison with the use of cell phones, which they somehow get into the prisons along with marijuana. We have got to work on those issues.”
It was reported that compulsory training programmes were designed to address every class of inmates within the penitentiaries, where 1415 inmates have been trained in literacy and numeracy, technical and vocational skills; and behaviour modification.
The administration also commenced the Fresh Start Programme, where 10 inmates have received tools to earn a sustainable income in cosmetology, tailoring, welding, carpentry, joinery, landscaping and animal husbandry. (G12)