Measures to address overcrowding in prisons moving apace

GINA, GUYANA, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The government is tackling overcrowding in the prisons by looking for alternatives for pre-trial detention. This is a part of other measures outlined to address prison overcrowding in a timely manner.

The government, through the Ministry of Public Security (MoPS) will be hiring a consultant to find alternatives for pre-trial detention, Project Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) Clement Henry told the Government Information Agency (GINA).

Clement Henry, Project Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP)

“A consultant has been identified, and we are doing contract negotiations with that person, and we have been able to arrive at a sum. We have sent that contract to NPTAB (National Procurement and Tender Administration B0ard) for award so this consultancy is expected to start as early as in the next two weeks,” Henry explained.

Overcrowding in prisons of Guyana is one of the major challenges faced by the Guyana Prison Service (GPS). The number of prisoners within the system remains alarmingly high, hence overcrowding.  A recent survey showed that the prison population stands at 256 per 100,000 of the national population, well above the world average of 146 per 100,000.

This is expected to be addressed under component three of the CSSP which caters to rehabilitation and social reintegration services. The Project Manager added that the purpose for hiring the consultant is to work towards designing additional policies, and strategies which will contribute to reduce prison overcrowding.

Henry highlighted that, “Despite the levels, some people say it’s up to 30 or 40 percent, but either of those two numbers is too high, and what we are looking at, is a consultancy to look at pre-trial detention. We believe that the results of this consultancy can guide policies and strategies in terms of reducing prison overcrowding and offering us viable alternatives to pretrial detention.”

During 2016, the government began exploring additional options to address the high prison population. These options include evaluation for alternative sentencing and the establishment of a case management system.

In December 2016, US $8M was approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help reduce overcrowding in Guyana’s prisons. The first component of this project seeks to reduce the use of pre-trial detention, especially for individuals accused of minor offences. The second component seeks to increase the use of alternative sentencing by the criminal justice system in Guyana.

 

By: Delicia Haynes

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