My Bitter/Sweet visit to the Mazaruni Prison – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

A Visit to the Mazaruni Prison

After all protocol was established and the necessary paperwork completed by the Prison Headquarters on Brickdam in Georgetown for my visit to the 170 plus year old Mazaruni Prison, I turned up on what can only be described as being at the right place at the right time.

The Bitter of the visit:

My principal purpose of going to the Mazaruni Prison a few weeks ago was to pay a humanitarian visit to an incarcerated former colleague of mine who is serving a twenty five year sentence for a crime he claims he did not commit.     

Allan Howard (not his real name), was arrested, charged and convicted in the Guyana High Court as he continued to claim his innocence. The sentence fitted the crime; the rape of a young teenage girl. But is he really guilty as a Jury of his peers concluded? The truth is known by himself, the alleged victim, and maybe a few other individuals. When the sentence of twenty five years behind bars was handed down by the Judge, ‘Allan Howard’ wept uncontrollably in the court. Was that so because he was really innocent? Only a very few persons, including the alleged victim knows the truth.

I was not present at the trial, but on hearing of the sentence handed down when the guilty verdict was announced, I decided that I will visit him in prison as soon as possible. Arriving at the Mazaruni Prison, I was still uncertain what I will say to my former colleague when we met. Whether I would be able to ask him that direct question; “Did you rape that young girl?” This was going to be a very difficult visit for me. But I felt that this visit was necessary, on humanitarian grounds. We are advised by The Master to visit the imprisoned, among other acts of compassion.

I have visited the Mazaruni Prisons on a number of occasions over the past forty years, but never to visit an inmate. It was new territory for me. When ‘Allan Howard’ arrived in my presence, we first greeted each other with a tight hug. He smiled. I cried. We talked for about fifteen minutes, sharing what was appropriate and uplifting. He was not depressed as I thought he would have been. I guess that he has come to terms with his fate of having to live a quarter of a century behind bars, during the prime of his life, and away from family, colleagues and friends, and denied the opportunity to do the regular things which he did on a daily basis for many years.

It was somewhat difficult for me, since I found it hard to come to terms that this person I knew, was capable of committing such a dastardly crime. I would certainly have recused myself had I been selected to sit on the Jury which convicted him. Because of a pending appeal, I would not share any more of the conversation that we had, safe to say that he is doing well and an exemplary prisoner, accepting his fate and doing the work assigned to him as he goes from day to day, in an environment which is so different from what he was accustomed to, and no doubt, longing for the day when he is set free.

 The Sweet of the visit:

Fortunately for me as a journalist, there was a high-level official team visiting the Mazaruni Prison that very day of my visit, including the Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, who graciously allowed me to tag along with the official visiting team as they toured the facility. The team included experts from ministries of government who were there to see conditions at first hand and to share their expert advice on the areas which were targeted for improvement and expansion. The team included Dawn Jordan of the Georgetown Prison, Fisheries Officer Jagwantie Doolall, Veterinarian Dr. Dexter Lyken, Agricultural Officer Maple Blades and Amias Benjamin.

The principal areas they looked at were the various agricultural projects at the prison. First we toured the cow pens where there are a variety of the animals. They all looked very healthy. So, too, the pig pens in which there were some really large swine.

The principal new development now in the works, is a large fish pond. During the tour, measurements were taken at the area identified for that new venture for the rearing of fish in a big way.

The Mazaruni Prison is located on high ground above the river, and as such does not suffer from floods. The rearing of Livestock and cultivating of fruits and vegetables abound at the Mazaruni Prison; Cows, pigs and goats, chickens and ducks, also a wide variety of greens are cultivated at that location. During the visit, I observed six new cottages which I was told are to accommodate staffers.

In a brief on-site interview at the end of the visit, the Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, expressed his satisfaction with the day’s tour and said, “I am exceedingly thankful for the technical advice we have received today”.  He also mentioned the over-tapping of the location river defence which is to be given the necessary attention.

The future of Lot 12 Camp Street:

On a related issue of the future of the Prison Service in Guyana, I have been surveying citizens, both at home and abroad, in regards to the future of Lot 12 Camp Street, since its destruction by arson. About 92% of those who I surveyed expressed the view that the facility at Lot 12 Camp Street should not be rebuilt. Many suggest that a new prison should be constructed away from the city of Georgetown. When asked where a new prison should be constructed, most of those with whom I spoke, suggested somewhere along the Soesdyke/Linden highway.

Another concern expressed by those with whom I interviewed, is the need for a stricter code for applicants who desire to join the Guyana Prison Service. “There are just too many rogue Prison Officers in the Prison Service today”, was the expressed view of a citizen. A small number advanced the view that there is enough land at Mazaruni to construct a new prison to accommodate short sentenced prisoners who are usually sent to Lot 12 Camp Street in Georgetown and to Lusignan on the East Coast Demerara.

With the many instances of banned items and illegal substances being taken to Lot 12, and Lusignan, maybe that suggestion of those two Prisons being transferred to the Mazaruni location might be given serious consideration.


​A briefing before the Team head out into the Field. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

The Prison Director at the Mazaruni Prison explains the
task the prisoners in the background are engaged in.
(Photo by F.Q. Farrier)46

Farrier at the Mazaruni Prison to visit an incarcerated
former colleague.

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  • michael hawkins  On November 16, 2018 at 4:32 am

    This is a very old place. I use to pass it many times as a young man going to and from the timber grants I worked on.
    This all takes me back to those days.

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