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Guyana government to address concerns of prisoners after fatal fire
Published on March 7, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

The Camp Street Prison in Georgetown, Guyana

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Following a fatal fire on Thursday, the situation at the Georgetown Prison in Guyana is returning to normalcy. This follows a meeting between an 18-man delegation representing the prisoners and vice president and minister of public security, Khemraj Ramjattan and minister of state, Joseph Harmon.

During the meeting, Ramjattan expressed condolences to the families and the inmates for the loss of lives. He described the situation as, “most unfortunate.”

Briefing the media following the meeting, Ramjattan explained that several concerns were raised by the inmates and those that can be addressed at the ministerial level will be resolved almost immediately.

According to the minister, several grievances were raised during the engagement. Among these were, the conditions of the prisons, the food provided to the inmates, the treatment meted out by some prison officers and the length of time they spend waiting for their cases to be heard in the courts.

“Those matters that can be dealt with administratively, we are going to deal with them almost forthwith, those that need evidence will be dealt with by the panel of investigators; the board of inquiry, which will start as soon as possible to hear the complaints of the prisoners,” Ramjattan assured.

The minister is of the view that the engagement with the prisoners was interesting and proved useful for the administration. During the meeting, the ministers were able to secure the assurance from the inmates that normalcy would be restored.

Questioned as to whether the government will look weak by engaging the prisoners and addressing their issues, the minister rejected the assertions.

“Absolutely not, it is meeting them to meet their demands and I feel it is a useful thing talking to them and hearing their versions too because indeed they could be speaking to the prison authorities and the prison authorities listening to them and not acting,” he said.

In his comments, Harmon told the media that he endorsed the views of Ramjattan.

“We believe that this was a very useful engagement and I think it will ensue to the benefit of the whole security situation, not only here in the prison, but in the country because people have families and their families are concerned about what is happening here, and so we believe that was happened here this morning will ease the situation,” he said.

The role of the media has also been identified as one which can contribute to unrest in the prisons as Harmon pointed out that media houses need to report accurately and fairly, “because what is being published is being seen by the prisoners in there and sometimes they are incensed by certain statements in the press.”

Harmon has committed the coalition government to ensuring that the prisoners live and work in decent conditions that should make their lives more comfortable.

“As a government we have to ensure that there are minimum standards which must be met,” he said.

Early Thursday morning, 17 inmates perished in a fire inside the capital offences building of the Camp Street prison. An inquiry in to the deaths and surrounding circumstances is to be launched shortly.
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