Study underway to address overcrowding in prison

GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A study to evaluate alternatives to imprisonment is currently being evaluated by the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP). More importantly, the study seeks to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons.

Clement Henry, the Project Manager of the CSSP, said this study is part of the third component of the programme which seeks to build the capacity of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS).

“This study intends to look at what are the alternatives to protract detention so that if there are options instead of incarceration, we will explore those options rather than for every offence we are dumping people within the prison system,” Henry told the Government Information Agency (GINA).

Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme, Clement Henry

Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme, Clement Henry

The CSSP is currently drafting contracts and preparing to advertise for persons to conduct the study which is projected to begin in November. “We’ve already had approval for the terms of reference for this activity. We can assure you it will be competitive,” he added.

Funding for the project was acquired from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

A recent report from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Camp Street prison riots, which led to the death of several persons in March, cited overcrowding as a serious cause for concern.

The report noted that there is a huge disparity in the ratio of remand to convicted prisoners. It went on to call for more enforcement of the Bail Act. Bail is a constitutional right afforded to prisoners with the exception of murder, treason or the possibility of the accused being a flight risk.

Henry stated further that advocacy will be required when the findings of the study are revealed. “This one is not a straight slam dunk there’ll be legal implications here, probably there may be legislative, other implications,” Henry pointed out.

Meanwhile, government has allocated $25M to facilitate night court sessions. The initiative is an immediate measure aimed at reducing the backlog in the judicial system and particularly overcrowding in prisons.

Another aspect of the CSSP in building capacity is the establishment of a case management system. “We will know the batch of prisoners who are about to be released and we will see what type of post -release services we already have prepared for them so it doesn’t surprise us,” Henry said in explanation of how the system will work.

The establishment of the case management system is dependent on the findings of the prisons survey which will be done in September, Henry added. The CSSP is facilitating a nationwide prison survey aimed at developing rehabilitation and social reintegration services for prisoners.