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The Camp Street Prison on fire
The Camp Street Prison on fire

Op-Ed: The Camp Street jailbreak and 21 questions for Ramjattan

The Coalition government has been criticised for the paucity of information on Sunday’s (July 9, 2017) jailbreak. Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, has said that the fire at the Camp Street Prison, which flattened the facility, was a “distraction” for the jailbreak.

And the information that has been released has provoked more questions than provided answers.

Guyanese have been informed that there were 1,018 inmates at the Camp Street Prison at the time of the fire and jailbreak. However, since Sunday’s fire, all 1,018 prisoners have not been fully accounted for.

Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, providing an update from the National Security Meeting, which was held at Camp Ayanganna, at noon yesterday, confirmed that five inmates escaped. He said: “There are five that are still at large.” However, the identities of only three of the escapees are known.

What is clear is that until there is an account of all the prisoners, the actual number of escapees will be unknown – particularly given that the Guyana Police Force admitted, yesterday, to mistakenly having issued a wanted bulletin for an inmate said to be one of the five escapees, when the prisoner was, in fact, still in custody.

Other questions relate to everything from the timing of the incident to possible breaches in the response to the jailbreak.

1. Government in its report on the timeline of Sunday’s incident claimed that at 16:45 hours (4:45PM) the Director of Prison, Samuels, was informed of disturbance at Georgetown Prison. However, reports of about disturbances at the Camp Street Prison began coming in at 14:30 hours (2:30PM) on Sunday. At what time did the fire start? Why is there a discrepancy in the timeline?

2. What materials were used to start the fire, given reports that gasoline or kerosene may have been the incendiaries used? How soon will a report from the Guyana Fire Service on the matter be forthcoming?

3. When will there be a full account of the 1,018 prisoners?

4. Why were the majority of Prison Officers on duty on Sunday (July 9, 2017) young officers? Where were the senior Prison Officers?

5. Why were women Prison Officers dealing with custodial duties, when it is male Prison Officers who are tasked with these duties?

6. Where was the death row inmate, Royden Williams, who was sentenced to death for the Bartica and Lusignan massacres, being held? If not in the death row block, where?

7. The Director of Prisons was informed that an officer was being held hostage and that there are sounds of gunshots within the prison. In addition to guns being snatched from Prison Officers, were there additional weapons in the inmates’ possession?

8. Was the armory, also called the ‘Strong Room’, at the Camp Street Prison breached?

9. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are activated and the various Joint-Services are contacted and respond. This is after the Fire Service responds. At what time were the SOPs activated?

10. Who was in charge for coordinating the response? Was it the Guyana Police Force?

11. What Alert Code, as detailed in protocols, was given to the security services, given that it was the Guyana Fire Services that was first on the scene?

12. What time was the first ‘call out’ made? And was there an error that resulted in the Guyana Fire Services being the first responders?

13. Where were the prisoners transferred to after being moved from Camp Street prison? What were the locations and how many were placed at each location?

14. Government’s report on the timeline of Sunday’s events stated that, “A total of five prisoners are observed leaving the prison.” What time were the inmates seen leaving? Who made the sighting? What action was immediately taken?

15. Why were there no roadblocks set up across the City, in response to the jailbreak?

16. What was the nature of police action in Buxton, after reports of gunshots in the area on Sunday night?

17. Were the records in the Admin Building destroyed? Were there electronic backups of these records, given that they include details on all the inmates?

18. What is the state of the investigation into the abduction of a 22-year-old man, whose vehicle was used by four inmates to escape? Where was the abandoned car found? What disclosures were made by the 22-year-old who was found alive last night?

19. How many are expected to benefit from plans, as indicated by President David Granger, to “immediately reduce the prison population.”

20. Is there any truth to reports from inmates that there were attempts to warn Senior Prison Officers since last Friday (July 7, 2017).

21. Will the findings and recommendation of the March 2016 Prison Riot Commission of Inquiry (CoI) be released to the public, given that the President has said that the recommendations will be implemented? If not? Why not?

Of note, is that the Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, has only met with the media once, since the incident, while President David Granger opted for a two-minute address to the nation – continuing his delay in not engaging the full media corps in over a year.

And all considered, the Guyanese people deserve answers!


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