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Artist impression of proposed new Mazaruni Prison
Artist impression of proposed new Mazaruni Prison

Cost of study to reform prison service still unknown despite promises by Ramjattan

A study on the modernization of the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) was commissioned by government and despite promises by Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, to provide the cost of the undertaking, this has still not been done.

The study done by a Jamaican group, Dr Trevor Hamilton and Associates, proposes that a new governance system for the prison service, which will see Government owning and providing funding for operations, that will be managed by a Board of Governors, who report to an Executive Director (equivalent to the Director of Prisons).

Additionally, Retired Judge, Professor Duke Pollard, has been engaged to draft amendments to the Guyana Prison Service Act, to ensure that the law reflects the proposals for a new governance structure. The draft amendments are expected to be completed at the end of the month. The cost of this undertaking is also unknown.

The disclosures about a move to reform the Prison Service were made by Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, yesterday, at a news conference held at his Brickdam Street office. He said, “It is some experts that are advising me. I am no expert in this and we put out there that we would like to have options from people who know a thing or two about the modernised governance of prisons.”

According to him, several options were presented to the Guyana Government for consideration aimed at ensuring better management of the local prison services. “The first that was asked was in relation to selecting one from five options- whether we privatise the prison system, whether regionalise it, a combination of both and whether keep it State hands with a board of governance.

“We opted for the Governance Structure to be in state hands, with a board of governance and the proposals are all here and we have now even furthered that Government structure along with the amendments that this new governance structure will cater for.

“…the board will take the form of a Board of Governors that is going to be directing the management and administrative staff and all of that and it will come under the Executive Director…and all the jobs, and the people and the qualifications that will come for a modernised system are all placed here. The qualifications especially is important, the project officers, the research officers, the planning and resource mobilisation officers, how many people are going to be there, it’s a brand new system completely.”

Asked if the new system proposed by the Jamaican group was tested, Ramjattan said yes. He added that this was one of the moves made after the March 2016 Prison Riots Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report was completed.

Meanwhile, Ramjattan commented on moves being made by Mazaruni Prisons, based on the recommendations of the CoI.

The Minister disclosed that Vikab Engineering Consultants, a Trinidad-based company, has completed the design for a new prison at Mazaruni, after international tendering was done earlier this year.

In another six weeks, he stated that the tender will open for four contractors to work simultaneously on the designs produced by Vikab Engineering Consultants.

Some $276M has already been allocated in Budget 2017 for works at the Mazaruni Prison and will be used to fund the first phase of construction. In addition to the sums for the construction, $176M was allocated for the construction of administrative buildings.

“This will be a major, major piece of construction,” Ramjattan said.

Notably, the March 2016 Prison Riot CoI report has still not been made public, despite Ramjattan’s promise, yesterday, to do so.

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