Released prisoners served one-third of their sentences

Minister Benn

Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn says the 65 prisoners who were released early had each served one-third of their sentence and had displayed commendable behaviour. The Minister submitted this written response to questions posed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Hon. Ms. Geeta Chandan-Edmond over concerns of the early release of the prisoners.

The response was circulated at the 14th sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday.

In November, Director of Prisons Mr. Gladwin Samuels had announced that the prisoners were released early.

Ms. Chandan-Edmond had also requested the names, length of sentence and offences committed by the prisoners.

However, the Minister, in his response, noted that names and length of prisoners’ incarceration will not be stated, but can be shown to Ms. Chandan-Edmond in confidence. He said the information will not be made public unless the person is alleged to have become recidivist.

Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn

Minister Benn did, however, provide a breakdown of the offences committed.  They are manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving, abduction, armed robbery, robbery, unlawful and malicious wounding, unlawful assault, bestiality, attempt to commit a felony, trafficking in cannabis, trafficking in cocaine, unlawful possession of a firearm, break and enter larceny, affiliation arrears, damage to property, breach of protection order, simple larceny, fraudulent conversion, escape from lawful custody, contempt of court and fraud.

The Government is keen to address overcrowding in prisons and has implemented several strategies to address this issue.  

In November, at the launch of Road Safety week, Minister Benn highlighted that rehabilitation works have started at the Lusignan Prison to provide adequate spacing for inmates, in keeping with the COVID-19 preventative measures.  This measure will reduce the incidence of transmission among inmates and prison officers.

Additionally, the Attorney General’s Chambers initiated a prosecutorial training programme for holders of Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees to serve as prosecutors in Magistrates courts.

In September, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall announced that 50 LLB graduates agreed to undertake the one-year accredited programme. On its completion, persons will be selected to serve, in collaboration with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Guyana Police Force.

The Attorney General had said that Guyana’s prison population far surpasses the world’s average with a rate of 264 per 100,000 and an occupancy level of 137.5 per cent. He attributed this to an over-reliance on custodial sentences and the overuse of pretrial detention in the criminal justice system, matters which the initiative would address.  The training is being implemented by the University of Guyana through the Support from the Criminal Justice System (SCJS) programme. The SCJS is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and aims to strengthen Guyana’s prosecutorial services.