Recent prison murder in Guyana — Was duty of care exercised – By Yvonne Sam

Recent prison murder in Guyana — Was duty of care exercised

By Yvonne Sam

Dear Editor,

Have the prisoners taken charge and become their own judge, jury and executioners?

Permit me to pen my thoughts before they run totally amok. Following the recent news article of the deadly prison attack on the Jagmohan brothers (news item here) while incarcerated in the New Amsterdam Prison, I have been forced to rethink even the basic of basics -“What are prisons for?  The idea that it is a place to treat, reform and rehabilitate now appears obsolete or unattainable when it comes to the prison system in Guyana.  In fact, it is apparent that the prisons and prison system are there solely to serve the courts. Point finale!  

The recent stabbing death of Neshan Jagmohan , by fellow inmates using jukers reveals a culture of sheer dehumanization, where lives no longer matters, neither does what happens to individuals behind bars.  After all, in the first instance they have been incarcerated on account of murder.  So figure it out.

Safety inside prisons depends on a multiplicity of factors among them being adequate supervision, adequate staffing and scrupulous surveillance, all of which was lacking in the New Amsterdam prison. According to Divisional Commissioner Ian Amsterdam following post – incident statements taken from the inmates, the deceased and his brother were extremely aggressive towards other inmates, and he was further made to understand that the bothers dominated.

Pointing the finger in the other direction, taking into full consideration the fact that these brothers were not newcomers/ new kids on the block, then the poignant question that must be addressed is: Prior to this sad saga was the prison personnel privy to the aggressive / dominating behavior of the brothers?  Were any reports made by other inmates, if so how were they dealt with? Or are these reports of their behavior now surfacing as an alibi for those accused.

Is the Guyana Correctional Services guilty of gross negligence, and breach of duty of care in allowing the prisoners to become judge, jury and ultimate executioner?  It has been said that the attack stemmed from a murder plot, does it not stand to reason that somewhere along the line as the plot was thickening the inmates’ behavior may have been sickening, in a manner that was prejudicial to good order and discipline.

It is apparent that both the incubation and the hatching of the plot progressed totally unnoticed in an environment totally controlled by perimeter architecture, disciplinary rules, internal security and surveillance.

It is a known fact that prisons can be dangerous places, undoubtedly and newspaper sources report that the accuseds may be facing murder and attempted murder charges. However, the call is now being sounded and a lot more besides the accused inmates should be held accountable.  I am calling on the President and all appropriate authorities to carry out an immediate and through investigation aimed at determining whether the well-established duty of care owed was exercised, and was the occurrence foreseeable.

An appropriate reactionary and justifiable measure would be to segregate the prisoners for their own safety, while the prison officials painstakingly review their in –house surveillance and supervisory procedures and the likely breach thereof.  As for the construction of jukers or other implements of harm, the officials had better take notice and bear in mind that one day they may be at the receiving end.

Prisons—that stressful anxiety producing environment have been known to bring out the strangest behavior in individuals who find themselves behind its walls, but let this incident serve as a pressing need for the corrective personnel to take careful heed.

Yvonne Sam.

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