DEVPOLES and Innovative Prison Systems (IPS) to strengthen the operation of the criminal justice system in Guyana
The Government of Guyana, through the Ministry for Legal Affairs and the Inter-American Development Bank, have entrusted DEVPOLES, in consortium with IPS Innovative Prison Systems, to lead the strengthening of the country’s probation system.
Foto credits: Supreme Court of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
Statement of the challenge
The general problem to be addressed by the Program is the overcrowding conditions in Guyana’s penitentiary system. Statistics show that Guyana’s prison overcrowding population rate in November 2018 was 209%. Capacity of the Guyana prison service was significantly reduced by fires in 2017 and 2020 at the Camp Street and Lusignan prisons, respectively. Today overcrowding has plunged to 29,7%. From an institutional standpoint, structural overcrowding can be explained by three (3) main contributing factors:
- Diminishment of physical capacity;
- The over reliance on custodial sentences;
- The overuse of pre-trial detention.
In Guyana, judges and magistrates have the option of both probation and community service orders as alternatives to imprisonment. However, these measures are scarcely used because magistrates lack the proper “incentives” to make use of these options, as confidence in the effectiveness of probation services to provide efficient supervision of offenders is low.
Solutions and expected results
The goal of the project is the strengthening of the organizational framework of probation services in the country, for which the design of a staff training programme is planned to be implemented over the next year. It will cover topics including, but not limited to: legal consideration of probation, interpersonal communication skills in the context of probation interviews, case load management, the investigation and community supervision of probation, probation investigations; probation officer physical conditioning; defensive tactics and first aid for criminal justice officers.
DevPoles & IPS will carry out a manpower audit, develop an organizational structure for the Probation Department, develop job descriptions, conduct a psychometric test of all probation officers to determine candidate’s suitability for the various roles on the proposed organizational structure, develop an orientation manual, performance metrics, standard operating procedures, evaluation tools, a self-care policy and the delivery of a 360º training programme to strengthen hard and soft skills for the modern probation officer. All project deliverables, conclusions, and recommendations will be based on evidence-based qualitative and quantitative analytics.
The Tokyo, Bangkok and Beijing Rules advocate the frequent and early use of probation as a resource. They affirm that probation should be used by the relevant authority wherever possible. In this sense, probation and community service will be identified in Guyana as alternatives to incarceration for minor and non-violent crimes. Furthermore, options that have been successful in other jurisdictions will be explored, such as bail, confiscation of travel documents, periodic check-ins with the police or other authority, electronic tags or curfews, conditional sentences, or suspended sentences.
Through these approaches, the project led by DEVPOLES in consortium with IPS Innovative Prison Systems will contribute towards reducing recidivism and inmate population by improving the social integration of people who have committed minor, non-violent crimes through the promotion of more rehabilitative approaches that involve families, victims, and members of the community to support their recovery and reintegration though an effective restorative approach.