- regarded as one of the best in the Caribbean
A Commission of Inquiry some years ago had regarded it as a ‘dungeon horrible’. A visiting British jurist proclaimed that it should be locked up. A Herculean effort has transformed it into a stupendous holding area for those who are criminally inclined.
It has cost the government some $14.4 M to completely overhaul the once smelly and unsightly Brickdam Police Station lockups which, according to Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, “has been at the forefront of several debates and the subject of treatment of persons held in detention for 72 hours or less.”
He is of the belief that the lockups can now be ranked as one of the better in the Caribbean.
The Minister’s disclosure was forthcoming yesterday when he addressed a simple ceremony to mark the commissioning of the lockups.
He underscored that the lockups have always been a focal point of attention for several reasons, a state of affairs that is mostly due to its Central Georgetown location. And attention to the lockups over the years, the Minister highlighted, had sometimes even reached a frenzy involving human rights advocate, attorneys-at-law and even the detainees themselves, calling for the lockups to be closed down permanently.
“These lockups have over the years been the temporary home for many petty and hardcore criminals, social activists, trade unionists and politicians like me who was detained here on two occasions on July 4, 1969 and April 7, 1989 respectively.”
And there is also the tale of those who were wrongfully held within the repulsive walls of the lockups. Minister Rohee said that there were many who were arrested for matters in which they were never involved.
However, there is one saving grace, according to the Minister, who sought to highlight that the condition of the Brickdam lockups over the years was never the reflection of other police stations lockups across the country.
“This reality was never accepted…as the saying goes one horrible lockups makes all lockups horrible. The challenge has always been and will always be the perception…After all a lockup is a lockup and no one, from the wrongfully arrested to the recidivist, wants to have his freedom taken away.”
However, Minister Rohee asserted that police lockups are an integral part of the law enforcement arrangements locally as they play a key role in assisting the police in maintaining the peace and good order in the society.
In recognition of the importance of lockups, Minister Rohee noted that the Brickdam Police Station has over the years benefited from both external and local funding which was further catapult to new heights with the overhauling of the holding area.
“This is a good example of government’s commitment to the institutional and infrastructural modernisation of the Guyana Police Force,” the Minister asserted.
Overwhelmed with satisfaction at the works undertaken, the Minister observed that the lockup is now a marked improvement compared to what obtained before. His sentiments were comparable to that of Commissioner of Police, Mr Henry Greene, who recounted that the state of the lockups back in the 1980s was even then ‘no bed of roses.’
An officer being ordered to work in that area back then was regarded as a penalty. He recalled that significant efforts were made in 1995, following a commission of inquiry, to rehabilitate the lockups to bring it to a much habitable form.
Another attempt was made in 1998 which saw the inclusion of the holding area and cells among other features. However, overtime, it has been observed that “the age old problem continues to be the regular prisoners who try to do as much damage to the lockups as possible because their only thought is that at some stage they would want to get out and escape from the lockups.”
“Those who come for one day or two days don’t damage the lockups. It is the regular prisoners who come out of the jails…” Greene speculated.
As such, he regarded the recent restoration of the facility as a significant and herculean effort which has allowed for major improvement from what has taken place in the pass. He is of the opinion that the current facility will be better maintained and sanitised and is now an environment in which the prisoners can feel comfortable.
According to Mr Noel James, Project Consultant of N. James Consultancy, the rehabilitation of the lockups was designed with 100 percent input from the senior officials of the Home Affairs Ministry and Senior Police officials.
Phase one of the rehabilitation was signed on July 24 last year at a cost of $5.9M. However, the physical works commenced on August 7, last, and continued for a period of 10 weeks.
And the scope of works, according to James, entailed fumigating the lockups environment, demolition and alteration to metal doors, rehabilitation of the existing steel grills and door framings, rehabilitation of the enquiries area and redoing of defective concrete works which were followed by a process of plastering.
There was also the demolition of exiting plumbing works and restoration of plumbing to each of the 15 cells that were rehabilitated. This phase of the project also included the constructing of a concrete reservoir and concrete trestle, which now support six new water tanks and tiling of the floors and walls of the lockups.
Subsequently, an additional $8.5M was secured and saw the completion of the project in its entirety. And this phase, he said, included the installation of 15 penal style toilets for each cell at a cost of US$700 each. There was also the fabrication and installation of 42 metal bunks and rehabilitation of the holding area grill and construction of seating accommodation.
Further, the project entailed the tiling and painting of the enquiries staff area including toilet and bath and painting of the general facility. The entire project lasted for just about four months.
Following the commissioning ceremony, Minister of Home Affairs, senior police officials, among other officials and the media were treated to a tour of the overhauled facility.