UK funds Vulnerable Prisoners training for Prison Officers

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DPI, GUYANA, Monday, February 5, 2018

Born out of President David Granger’s request to include the prison sector in the UK sponsored Security Sector Reform Review – following the prison riot/fire in Georgetown in March 2016 – the United Kingdom has introduced a Handling Vulnerable Prisoners training programme which began today.

Officers to benefit from the training along with members of the panel.

At the ceremony, Acting British High Commissioner Ron Rimmer stated that Guyana will benefit from the Training of Trainers which is designed to help better equip the prison service to handle vulnerable prisoners.

“The training this week was borne out of a request from His Excellency President David Granger to include the Prison Sector in the Sponsored Security Sector Reform Review and is designed to help officers of the Prison Service become better equipped to handle vulnerable prisoners. It is the latest in a series of tangible outputs that the United Kingdom has undertaken,” Rimmer said.

Acting Director of Prisons Gladwell Samuels highlighted the issue of vulnerable persons in the local prison system.

“A number of persons who are held in the prisons in Guyana ought not to be there because they actually require specialized treatment, our prison across Guyana accounts for about 75 persons who are known to be mentally unstable, and with our relationship with the ministry of health we were able to provide daily care to those persons before the July 9th fire of 2017,” Samuels said.

The Director of Prisons commended the initiative. “Today I see this training as a step in the right direction in order for us to be better equipped to identify those persons with special needs, those persons who are deemed vulnerable so that they can be adequately catered for.”

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan also mentioned the lack of proper knowledge on the part of prison officers to be able to identify these vulnerable persons.

Minister of Public Security Kemraj Ramjattan, British High Commissioner (ag) Ron Rimmer and Director of CreateBetterMinds Caroline Ravello engaged in discussion.

“Sometimes the prison staff is totally unaware of the special needs and the requirements for special treatment. When you cut across standard treatment for all prisoners, then you are going to have adverse effects on those who require the special treatment.”

Minister Ramjattan noted that the programme is vital to creating a suitable environment in which to care for these persons.  “Having found that indeed there is a need for a special treatment for vulnerable prisoners, the best that could be done is at least the training of officers to take care of these vulnerable prisoners is especially important, especially in the context where they are housed with the regular prisoner.”

Mental Health/Disability Advocate and Director of CreateBetterMinds, Caroline Ravello gave an overview and outlined some of the aspects the programme.

“We talk a lot about vulnerable prisoners because this programme is geared towards vulnerable prisoners, but I believe from my personal experience that all of us with a mind, we are vulnerable. So, in terms of this intervention, we are talking about managing us, managing the prisoners, management of suicide and self-harm in the prisons and a number of other interventions ranging from screening, training, treatment and appropriate supervision of at-risk prisoners,” Ravello stated.

She further encouraged the officers that whatever they learn, when completed, they should leave the training with the passion and compassion to create better minds.

The Mental Health First Response Train the Trainer course will be facilitated through the non-profit organisation CreateBetterMinds – a mental health and disability organisation – established under the guidance of the University of the West Indies Professor of Psychiatry, Gerard Hutchinson.

The five-day programme will be facilitated by Caroline Ravello and UK consultant Michael Hamilton.

Director of CreateBetterMinds Caroline Ravello presenting on the programme.

British High Commissioner (ag) Ron Rimmer addressing the attendees.


Director of Prisons (ag) Gladwell Samuels giving his address.


By: Stephon Gabriel


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