Guyana Chronicle:– AGAINST the background of an increase in the smuggling of contraband into prisons here, government has moved to procure full body and baggage scanners for the New Amsterdam Prison.
The scanners are being purchased under the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP), through which, US$1.8M has been set aside to strengthen the Guyana Prison Service Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Services.
In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, CSSP Project Manager, Dr. Clement Henry, said like in many other parts of the world, the issue of contraband in the prisons remains a problem. He said to complement the two scanners that will be installed at the New Amsterdam Prison before the end of the year, the government, through the Public Security Ministry, will be procuring additional scanners for the other prisons in the country to block illegal items from entering the prisons.
In December, 2018, 14 cellphones, five improvised weapons, 22 lighters, a quantity of wire, 12 chargers, 11 earpieces, two make-shift weapons, two SIM cards, one watch, and 12 grammes of cannabis were found during a raid at the New Amsterdam Prison.
Three months later, March, 2019, more contraband items were unearthed at the very prison. Those items included three cellphones, a Rambo knife, a shaving set, three improvised weapons, 11 phone chargers, 25 cigarette lighters, 27 razor blades and one gramme of cannabis. Dr. Henry said the acquisition of scanners will make it difficult for the banned and, in some cases, illegal items to enter the prisons.
Dr. Henry said under the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme, a survey of all inmates in the system was conducted in addition to a study on prison officers and staff. Based on the studies conducted, CSSP will be hiring a consultancy firm to develop a Rehabilitation and Re-integration Strategy for Guyana Prison Service. “We are trying to get a consultant on board to develop the strategy. That procurement is ongoing,” Dr. Henry said.
In 2017, Professor Ernest Uwazie, Inmate Rehabilitation and Reintegration (R&R) expert, conducted the studies on the prison system under the CSSP. Based on his assessment, Professor Uwazie had identified some critical issues necessary to the successful reintegration of inmates after serving their sentence.
The issues identified were: improving the prison infrastructure, giving greater focus to corrective approaches, training to increase educational levels of inmates, employment skills building for inmates, and facilitating systematic contact between inmates and their families to support reintegration measures.
Strengthening the rehabilitation and reintegration capabilities of the Guyana Prison Service is a key component of CSSP, Dr. Henry said. Prison overcrowding and inexistence of a comprehensive inmate R&R model and management tools, were among other issues brought to the fore by Professor Uwazie.
Though the studies conducted confirmed that overcrowding in the prisons remain a problem, it will be addressed under another initiative. Dr. Henry explained that a Report on Alternatives to Pretrial Detention was commissioned, however, that the recommendations identified in that report will be implemented through another project funded by the IDB.
Additionally, the studies showed that there is a need for an electronic inmate management. Dr. Henry said, no longer could the Prison Service continue with the paper-based system. Under the CSSP, a Rehabilitative Learning Centre will also be developed to complement the existing education and vocational programmes in the system.
To date, over 30 prison officers have been trained under this component of the CSSP. More prison officers and staff are expected to be trained this year.