GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday November 24, 2017 – Every year, the Guyana government spends almost three-quarter million US dollars to just feed inmates on remand in the country’s prisons. And Minister of National Security Khemraj Ramjattan says it’s putting strain on finances.
So he says alternatives to reduce the remand population are needed to resolve this problem.
“The current remand population of our prison facilities accounts for 35 percent of all inmates and the cost of providing meals alone for the remand population is estimated GUY$150 million (US$723,194) annually. That’s just for food, and there are several additional costs associated with incarceration of these pretrial detainees,” Minister Ramjattan said as he addressed a workshop to discuss the recommendations of a draft final report on a study of alternatives to incarceration for pre-trial detainees.
He said with that high cost in mind, members of the judiciary should be more encouraged and willing to capitalize on opportunities to utilize alternatives to pre-trial detention.
“The current high rate of remand to prison population makes a strong case for stakeholders along the criminal justice chain to seek ways to eliminate inappropriate use of pre-trial detention,” the minister contended.
Consultant Peter Pursglove said the development of an effective alternative to pre-trial detention is heavily dependent on the establishment and use of a modern data collection system.
But, he said, there is a disappointing failure of the justice system to gather and produce statistics that can be used to reliably develop alternative systems.
“There has to be a proper prisoner database if there is going to be any development of sentencing reforms. You have got to know who is in your prison and why he’s is there. It is important for remand prisoners that you should be able to look at each remand prisoner and know exactly when he entered prison and when his next court appearance should be.
“You have got to constantly monitor those in the system to make sure they are going through their stages at the right time otherwise they do get left behind,” he said.
Photo 1: Minister of National Security Khemraj Ramjattan