Strengthening the operation of the criminal justice system in Guyana Silvia Bernardo July 7, 2021

Strengthening the operation of the criminal justice system in Guyana

Through the Ministry for Legal Affairs and the Inter-American Development Bank, the Government of Guyana has entrusted DEVPOLES in consortium with IPS Innovative Prison Systems to strengthen the country’s probation system.


Statement of the challenge

The general problem to be addressed by the programme is the overcrowding conditions in Guyana’s penitentiary. Statistics show that in Guyana, the prison overcrowding rate was 209% in November 2018. From an institutional point of view, this is due to two main contributing factors, namely the over-reliance on custodial sentences and the overuse of pre-trial detention.

In Guyana, judges and magistrates have the option of handing down both probation and community service orders. However, these alternative non-custodial measures are scarcely used because magistrates often lack the stimulus to use them. Confidence in the effectiveness of probation services to provide an efficient supervision of offenders is low among the judiciary in Guyana.

The Supreme Court of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana

Photo credit: Supreme Court of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana


Solutions and expected results

The goal of the project is to strengthen the organisational 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.

The staff training programme will cover topics including, but not limited to legal consideration of probation, interpersonal communication skills in the context of probation interviews, caseload management, the investigation and community supervision of probation, probation investigations; probation officer physical conditioning; defensive tactics and first aid for criminal justice officers.

DevPoles and IPS will carry out a human resources audit, develop an organisational structure for the Probation Department, develop job descriptions, conduct a psychometric of probation officers to determine the suitability of the candidates for the various roles on the proposed organisational structure for the Probation Department, develop an orientation manual, performance metrics, operating standards and SOPs, evaluation tools, a self-care policy and 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.

Mazaruni Prison, Guyana

Mazaruni Prison Complex, Guyana

The Tokyo, Bangkok and Beijing Rules all advocate the frequent and early use of probation as a resource. They affirm that probation should be used by the relevant authority whenever 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 will contribute towards reducing recidivism and inmate population. At the same time, it will improve the social integration of people who have committed minor, non-violent crimes by promoting more rehabilitative approaches, whiche involve the families, the victims, and the community to support the recovery and reintegration of criminal offenders through an effective restorative approach.