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The Ministry of Home Affairs has no information yet on the nature and cause of death of two prisoners who were killed on September 19, 2020 during an unrest at the Lusignan Prison, spurred by concerns that not enough was being done to address the COVID-19 spread among prisoners.
An initial statement issued by the Prison Administration indicated that two prisoners – 51-year-old Earl Graham and 21-year-old Winston Herbert — were killed during the unrest in the prison while five others were injured. Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels said that the inmates protested by refusing meals and vociferously expressing their concern about the presence of the coronavirus in the prison. They hurled bricks and other objects at members of the Joint Services.
In videos from within the prison, which made their way to the media, they were heard complaining that one of their cell mates was “wrongfully” shot in his back. The prisoners aggressively spoke about the need for speedier trials and the reduction and granting of bail for some categories of prisoners with minor offences.
As a result, the main parliamentary Opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) — laid a string of questions in the National Assembly specifically for the Minister of Home Affairs.
On Tuesday, the Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn sought to answer these questions but said that there is little information he can provide as it relates to their deaths at this time. “The nature and extent will have to be determined based on autopsy reports. I do not have those as yet and the reports from the prison authorities will detail the nature and extent of those injuries,” Benn said.
Benn told the National Assembly that prisoners confined for petty crimes are mixed with those in for more serious crimes and, oftentimes, those with “nothing to lose” lead newcomers astray. He said that law enforcement did everything it could to prevent a much more dangerous situation.