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Letter: Destruction of main prison in Guyana underscores need to overhaul security system and posture
Published on July 11, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The full facts and circumstances of the fire that completely destroyed the Georgetown Prison in Guyana on Sunday are not yet known or made public. We will therefore eschew judgement.

This crisis is devastating to the management of the country’s national security. Guyana is grappling with the economic and social challenges of development. The destruction of an entire prison in the centre of the capital city as a consequence of an uprising, demonstrates that the country has not competently managed or transformed its national security infrastructure and posture to respond to modern threats and conditions.

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This crisis must serve as a wakeup call; not only for a drastic overhaul of the nation’s security policy and framework, but in thinking, analysis and management as well.

The death of Prison Officer Odinga Wickham from gunshot wounds is tragic and heart breaking. We express sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. We continue to pray for the Wickham family, the injured as well as all others affected by this tragedy. The fact that causalities were minimized, and only three of 1,018 inmates successfully escaped and remain on the run, means the evacuation was well managed and successful. The security forces deserve commendation. The prison officers, whose lives were in danger but nevertheless performed their duty, deserve special recognition.

Last year a similar uprising and fire at the said prison left 17 prisoners dead and several prison officers injured. On Sunday, one year later, the entire prison was destroyed by an uprising and fire. The Director of Prisons and the Minister of National Security, I’m sure, will be made to account for their stewardship in the various fora our democracy allows.

Accountability is important, but we in the diaspora must also focus on solutions that will enhance the well-being of “the people” of Guyana. The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) therefore calls on the government to:

(i) Immediately condemn the Camp Street, Georgetown Prison facility and urgently rebuild a modern facility outside of the commercial district of Georgetown.

(ii) Immediately fast-track implementation of all recommendations of the recently concluded 2016 Commission of Inquiry (COI). And,

(iii) Invite a team of experts from the United States Bureau of Prisons or its British counterpart to help lead a fact finding mission that can ultimately establish best practices for our nation’s prison system as well as help to design and implement training modules for its personnel to efficiently manage this essential sector.

Rickford Burke
President
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)
 
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