Prison infernoThe Private Sector Commission (PSC) has called on the Government to resuscitate the Law and Order Commission; and for good reason, as the Commission’s mandate would have contributed to the prevention of the July 9 fire at the Camp Street Prison.According to former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, the Commission wouldFormer Home Affairs Minister Clement Roheehave helped in forestalling the fire, as one of the Commission’s functions involved exercising civilian oversight on prison authorities.“The Law and Order Commission, on which sits the Director of Prisons and the Commissioner of Police, would be called upon from time to time to give reports on what is happening in the prisons around the country and what security measures are taken to address concerns,” Rohee explained during a recent interview.“In addition to that, members of the Commission would also, on their part based on information they receive, bring their concerns to the Commission for the attention and action of the Director of Prisons.”However, the Law and Order Commission was not in place up to the time of the fire that gutted the Camp Street jail, serving as cover for a number of prisoners to escape. And though there have been reports that the escape plot was out in the open prior to the fire, the multiple fires set in the prison overwhelmed authorities.“In addition to that, you had another series of institutions within the prisons that would serve a similar purpose of which the Private Sector would have representatives as well as the representatives of the Directorate of the Prisons,” Rohee posited.“For example, the Sentence Management Board chaired by a civilian, the agriculture development board, the visiting committees…all of them were dominated by civilians, and would contribute in different ways to having some oversight of what is happening in the prison. And they would assist in forestalling any incident of a major nature as the kind that took place.”The National Commission on Law and Order, on the other hand, was established in Guyana in 2004 as part of a unilateral decision by Caricom. It dealt with high levels of violent crime and allowed a more inclusive partnership between Government and stakeholders.The Guyana Prison Service’s Sentence Management Board (SMB) was established in 2011, under the previous administration. Its mandate had included determining what form of rehabilitative training a prisoner would access before being rehabilitated into society.The inaugural Board was made up of Captain Gerry Gouveia, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) representative; Reverend Fay Clarke; the Officer-in-Charge of Welfare and Corrections, Sylvia Conway of the Parole Board; Ayube Mohamed of the Prison Visiting Committees; Beni Sankar and representatives from the then Ministries of Human Services and Social Security, and Home Affairs.The Government had faced much criticism for the fact that the Prison Visiting Committees were not in place at the time of a catastrophic fire last year at the Camp Street Prison that claimed the lives of 17 prisoners. The Administration had subsequently moved to appoint the committees for Guyana’s prisons.Following a meeting on Friday last with Government officials, providing updates on the national security situation, former Chairman of the Law and Order Commission, Captain Gouveia had noted the importance of these commissions.“We were in the prisons every day. We were in the prison talking to prisoners, talking to prison officers every month,” the business executive told reporters. “I met with the entire echelons of the prison administration dealing with those issues.”“I believe that the Law and Order Commission was a vital forum, a monthly forum that was chaired by the Minister and I believe that the Minister should re-activate the Law and Order Commission,” Gouveia had added. “It was a place where a lot of information was being fed into the system that could then be translated and used as intelligence.” The PSC has, in fact, been calling on the coalition Government to implement the Commission since 2015.