GEORGETOWN –– Authorities have corrected themselves with the number of prison escapees or missing persons from Sunday’s horrific blaze at the Camp Street jail. Yesterday, a government statement disclosed that it is now in fact eight prisoners at large, not five.
It was pointed out that a number of reasons, including deliberate acts by prisoners at the Lusignan Prisons, have made the exercise of head counts difficult.
“It was initially announced that there are 5 fugitives at large following the Georgetown Prison fire. You would have seen reports this afternoon [Monday] that Director of Prisons Gladwyn Samuels announced that there are now eight prisoners at large,” the statement said.
It was explained that on Sunday, there were 1018 prisoners registered at the Georgetown Prisons with 980 inmates in the prison at the time of the fire/breakout. The others, considered low-risk inmates, were on labour duties and were later accounted for.
Of the 980 who were inmates at the time of the fire, nine escaped, with one recaptured – his name is Shamudeen Mohamed.
It was explained that one prisoner also escaped while the transfers were being done from Georgetown to Lusignan.
“He was recaptured the same night. His name is Shawn Collins.”
“Of the 1,010 inmates, some were moved to Mazaruni while the majority remained at Lusignan at this time.”
Four of the eight prisoners have been identified so far – Mark Royden Williams called Smallie; Uree Varswyck called Malcolm Gordon; Stafrei Hopkinson Alexander and Cornelius Thomas (a Trinidadian).
“The other four are to be identified and we expect an official announcement by the GPF [Guyana Police Force] this evening.”
However, up to late yesterday, the police did not issue a statement.
The government statement did not immediately confirm that Dellon Henry called Nasty Man was among the escapees, saying that he has not yet been officially announced.
Government spokesman, Imran Khan, from the Office of the Prime Minister, in explaining the situation, acknowledged that there is a considerable amount of understandable anxieties by many with regard to the verification of the number and identities of the prisoners in custody at Lusignan.
He said that “we are not dealing with compliant school children. Hundreds of the over 1000 prisoners are hardened criminals. When the roll call is done, many of the prisoners are refusing to identify themselves, making identification of all the prisoners extremely difficult. You may ask why they are refusing to identify themselves. The main reason is that many of them are on ‘self support’ which means that their families take food to them to the prison on a daily basis.”
He said it is presumed that the prisoners are refusing to identify themselves, because if they do, they will be transferred to Mazaruni or Timehri, and they will then be off of self support, as their families would no longer be able to travel such distances to provide food for them and they will have to consume prison food only.
“I have been told that even verifying the total number in custody is being made difficult as the 1000+ prisoners are in a single open area, and are deliberately moving around to disrupt the counting process,” Khan said in his WhatsApp statement.
“It is also being suggested that some of the prisoners are being deliberately uncooperative so as to delay the identification of all the escapees for as long as possible, in an effort to aid the escapees in their efforts to remain unidentified.”
The army in a separate statement called for patience and understanding, as the Joint Services work to both recapture those who have escaped, and having a greater level of control to those who remain in custody.
“The Guyana Defence Force, through its involvement in Operation Safeguard, continues to fulfill its mandate to ensure the safety and security of citizens and communities across Guyana. In this regard, the Force remains actively involved in supporting the Guyana Police Force and the other security agencies in the current environment, following the security crisis which occurred at the Camp Street Prison on Sunday July 9, 2017.”
At the Georgetown Prisons, where the remains of the burnt buildings told only part of the tale, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure urged residents in the neighbourhood to be prepared, as construction works are ongoing.
“These works will include the removal of debris from the site. As a result, members of the public are being advised to expect related construction noises. Furthermore, motorists and pedestrians are also asked to take note and exercise caution. We sincerely regret any inconveniences these works will cause and urge citizens to remain patient as we strive to address this national issue together.”