Considerations to be fulfilled—Before we rebuild  (the prison) – By Yvonne Sam

Considerations to be fulfilled—Before we rebuild  (the prison)

By Yvonne Sam

Before any thought is given to the rebuilding (whether we should, or would it be wood) relocating (still Durban or urban), construction (destruction), or refurbishing (new face to old place) of the Camp Street Prison we should instead reconsider and redirect our attention to urgent reexamination of the entire penal system. Such a move calls for a bottom-up remodeling of the prison program, sentencing structure and definite retraining of prison personnel.

Thus far what has been the primary goal of the Camp Street prison? Has it been to rehabilitate or incapacitate?   Have any of the goal(s) been met?  Prisons were initially created and constructed as a form of physical punishment, with some penalties and sanctions regarded as utilitarian in nature with the goals of deterrence.  It is blatantly apparent that the current prison system in Guyana has not worked, serving instead as an irritant rather than a deterrent. The incarcerated have been rated as the educators, teaching the personnel all along the way.   

Urgently needed also is a coming together of wits and bits regarding punishment whether it be capital or common. Well-run prisons are not conjured up, or come into being by good laws, lawsuits or good philosophy. While these are of vital importance, in the absence of competent, intelligent and inspiring prison leadership there is little to no chance of creating constructive prison environments and operations.

In a desperate endeavor  to ensure that there is never a recurrence of  the prison saga the Government of Guyana should  look outside of  Guyana  for models of prison systems that have not only  worked but continue to do so.  We cannot afford to lean on our own understanding. Not at this point? The management of a penal institution, where the inmates will observe reasonable rules, not self-mutilate, harm each other or the staff and facility is a challenge.  The fact should not be overlooked, in fcat the fires and riots bear testimony to the fact that all work and no play leads to brooding, perversion, plotting and riots. So we must find personnel who are up to this challenge.  It must be emphasized that no longer can the prison be run as authoritarian command –and-control organizations, nor be effectively managed by a single individual, no matter how capable, energetic or charismatic.  While leadership may start at the top, reinforcement and boosting is necessary all the way down and across the organization. An effective leader in the penal system is demonstrated by his ability to recruit and inspire subordinates. It is essential that leaders have a breadth of vision so that they can challenge their subordinates to think and operate in new ways.

Also to be considered is the Union, who in many prisons are silent forces to be contended with. It constitutes an influential stakeholder that can restrict or potentially restrict internal ability to effectuate policy choices.

In February 2013 a group of American corrections officials, judges, prosecutors and public defenders spent a week visiting prisons in Germany and the Netherlands, where individuals are imprisoned at about one-tenth the rate of the United States, for far less time, and under conditions aimed at social reintegration rather than punishment alone

Based on the group’s research, a  submitted report  suggested that European sentencing and penal practices may provide useful guidance in the increasing effort to reform an American prison system crumbling under its  very own weight.

So, if America with a system of unenviable  penology, and with the highest incarceration rate in the world, nearly five times that of Britain, seven times that of France and 24 times that of India, can look at effective prison working system, how much more so can Guyana?

The world is watching on —–as the ashes smolder from the burning prison, a nation mourns the loss of her son in the execution of penal duty and reality becomes clearer to the citizens. Guyana is now called upon to prove that she has learnt from her mistakes.

Let haste not be the case where the rebuilding is concerned, the recent incident has only added fuel to the outcry. According to Lord Tennyson ,” Knowledge is easy but wisdom lingers”.

Let that wisdom not be attributable to the inmates.

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  • marc mattews  On 07/18/2017 at 9:11 am

    Why are there prisons and whom do they serve, benifit and how?

  • Hermina  On 07/18/2017 at 7:10 pm

    marc you had better take note and mark sense rather than nonsense. Here you go asking the type of question that only an idiot would ask and expect those of his same thinking and brain power ( if any) to answer?
    Oops your level of smartness is showing–look at how you spelt- benifit. Not to your benefit, I guess. Use the spell check next time, it will save you embar rass ment.

    • Youman  On 07/19/2017 at 4:18 pm

      Marc what do you suggest ? Hmm mmmm send them to the gas chambers or starve them???

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