Un­in­hab­it­able Lusig­nan Prison should be closed down with­out de­lay -UN ex­perts group

-UN ex­perts group rec­om­mends

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

The Lusig­nan Prison should be closed down with­out de­lay, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions’ Work­ing Group of Ex­perts on Peo­ple of African De­scent, which says the fa­cil­ity is “not fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion.”

In a pre­lim­i­nary re­port last Fri­day, pre­sented upon the con­clu­sion of a five-day visit to Guyana, the Group is­sued a raft of rec­om­men­da­tions ad­dress­ing the state of the coun­try’s pe­nal sys­tem, stat­ing that steps should be taken to im­prove the in­fra­struc­ture and hy­gienic con­di­tions within pris­ons, bring­ing them within in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

“All pris­ons must be op­er­ated in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights obli­ga­tions, in­clud­ing the Man­dela Rules,” it said, while adding that over­crowd­ing within pris­ons and de­ten­tion cen­tres must be ap­proached with ur­gency.

The United Na­tions Stan­dard Min­i­mum Rules for the Treat­ment of Pris­on­ers, also known as the Man­dela Rules, con­sists of 122 rules listed un­der var­i­ous cat­e­gories.

Un­der “Ac­com­mo­da­tion,” Rule 12 states that if sleep­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions are in in­di­vid­ual cells or rooms, each pris­oner should oc­cupy their own cell/room. It fur­ther stated that if over­crowd­ing should arise, and an ex­cep­tion to the rule has to be made, it is “not de­sir­able” to have two pris­on­ers within the same space.

In the case of dor­mi­to­ries, the rules state that the in­hab­i­tants should be care­fully se­lected to en­sure they are suit­able to as­so­ciate with each other in those con­di­tions, and should re­ceive reg­u­lar su­per­vi­sion at night.

The rules of ac­com­mo­da­tion also cater for ad­e­quate shower and san­i­tary hy­giene ar­range­ments, as well as nat­u­ral light­ing and ven­ti­la­tion within the pris­ons. Ad­e­quate light­ing was deemed to be im­por­tant to al­low pris­on­ers to read by the light, and if this was not pos­si­ble, the rules state that “ar­ti­fi­cial light shall be pro­vided suf­fi­cient for the pris­on­ers to read or work with­out in­jury to eye­sight.”

Rule 21, writ­ten un­der the cat­e­gory of “Cloth­ing and bed­ding,” states that “Ev­ery pris­oner shall, in ac­cor­dance with lo­cal or na­tional stan­dards, be pro­vided with a sep­a­rate bed and with sep­a­rate and suf­fi­cient bed­ding which shall be clean when is­sued, kept in good or­der and changed of­ten enough to en­sure its clean­li­ness.”

“Pris­ons which are not fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion, such as Lusig­nan Prison, must be closed down with­out any de­lay and be re­placed with fa­cil­i­ties that meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards,” the pre­lim­i­nary re­port ad­vised. The same ad­vice was ex­tended for the coun­try’s ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tres.

In July, around 1,000 pris­on­ers were taken to Lusig­nan for ac­com­mo­da­tion af­ter a fire gut­ted the Camp Street jail.

At the Lusig­nan Prison, the trans­ferred pris­on­ers were housed in an open air hold­ing sec­tion. With the con­di­tions prov­ing to be less than ideal, within weeks half of the pris­on­ers were even­tu­ally re­lo­cated to other fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try, and the re­main­der were spread be­tween Lusig­nan’s main fa­cil­ity, and three hold­ing ar­eas con­structed to ac­com­mo­date them. They were in­tended to house ap­prox­i­mately 450 pris­on­ers.

Thir­teen in­mates had es­caped from the hold­ing fa­cil­ity at Lusig­nan on July 24, dur­ing a heavy down­pour, af­ter dig­ging a tun­nel that took them un­der the fence and into the back­lands. Twelve of them were re­cap­tured while one was killed.

On Fri­day, Di­rec­tor of Pris­ons Glad­win Sa­muels told re­porters that fol­low­ing the es­cape, a re­view of the sys­tem was done.

“…As a re­sult of that, the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity mea­sures were put in place. I can safely say that [although] the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still some­what on­go­ing, from all that has been pre­sented so far, it is point­ing to ne­glect of duty which re­sulted in the es­cape of the pris­on­ers… the var­i­ous layers of se­cu­rity was put in place but per­sons did not ex­e­cute as was ex­pected,” Sa­muels stated.

He said that the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will de­ter­mine the level of dis­ci­plinary ac­tion that will be meted out.

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