…Phase One of Mazaruni Prison expansion will accommodate 200 inmatesWith a prison population of 2069 inmates, Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels has signalled that there continues to be overcrowding at the various penitentiaries.He made these remarks on Wednesday, noting that this overall figure comprises of 724 male convicted inmates between the ages of 18 and 35.Artist’s impression of the Mazaruni Prison ExpansionThe Guyana Prison Service operates five prisons namely: Georgetown, Timehri, New Amsterdam, Mazaruni and Lusignan.“When you are in prison, especially now because of our state of overcrowding, you do not have that personal space. From the time you wake up in the morning, you have someone who is basically in your face that does not belong there. That can breathe conflict,” Samuels expressed.The Camp Street Prison in Georgetown was gutted in a fire in 2017, whereby a few inmates escaped, some were recaptured and others suffered injuries. At the time, the prison was the largest lockups with 963 inmates, 521 of whom were on remand.In 2016, the Prison also suffered a fire, which claimed the lives of 17 prisoners.Afterwards, a Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which cost the treasury some $13 million was ordered by President David Granger.According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, the combination of overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement are all ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent.Back in January, an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report had found that the overcrowding at Guyana’s prisons put inmates at risk of contracting contagious diseases.It is a situation that the Citizen Security and Strengthening Programme (CSSP) Prison Survey report zeroed in on. Completed and handed over to the Government, the report found that 44.1 per cent of inmates had been stricken with the flu and other chest infections.The report states that 8.9 per cent of prisoners had gastrointestinal problems; 4.5 per cent were affected by tuberculosis; 2.4 per cent suffered from depression and anxiety, 0.8 per cent were infected with HIV/AIDS and the remainder had other conditions such as malaria and chicken pox.“During their stay in prison, 67.4 per cent of inmates got sick. Besides, 45.9 per cent of the inmates said that HIV/AIDS tests were performed on them to verify whether they were infected or not,” the report states, adding that 53 per cent were not tested.According to the report, 80.6 per cent of the inmates, after being diagnosed with an illness, continued to share a cell with other inmates. Approximately 18.1 per cent responded in the negative, while the question was not applicable to the remainder.Mazaruni PrisonMeanwhile, the Director of Prisons noted that the Mazaruni Prison in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) is on schedule with the expansion works, with the first phase slated for completion by the end of the year.When completed, an additional 400 prisoners will be facilitated. Trinidadian firm, Kee-Chanona has joint responsibility for the project alongside the Guyanese company, Nabi Construction Incorporated.Samuels told Guyana Times that upon the completion of Phase One, 200 inmates can be accommodated.“I wish to state that the project is moving apace as is required. At the end of the project, we are expected to accommodate an additional 400 prisoners at Mazaruni. What we are currently working on is Phase One, which we expect to be completed between October and November of this year, which will see us being able to accommodate an additional 200 prisoners at that location.While Phase Two has commenced, it will roll over to next year.“The other phase will go into next year. We do not have a specific date of completion as yet but in keeping with our progress meetings and so on that we have every Thursday, things are at the level that they should be at this time.”Following the July 2017 jailbreak and fire which destroyed the Camp Street Prison, Government revealed plans to expand the Mazaruni Prison – a project which was expected to cost some $2 billion but aims to streamline the local prison system and most importantly, reduce overcrowding.Apart from a new wing to accommodate new prisoners, these works were fixed for the expansion of offices, inmate living facilities, staff and family living facilities, training facilities, as well as the construction of a school, daycare centre and places of worship at the Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) prison.