…as officers receive mental health trainingA group of Prison Officers and other support staff are participating in a comprehensive training programme on how to handle mentally ill inmates and other vulnerable groups.Sponsored by the British High Commission of Guyana through the Security Sector Review Programme, the training commenced on Monday at the Police Officers’ Training Centre in Georgetown.Acting Director of Prisons, Gladwyn Samuels, in remarks at the opening of the sessions, highlighted the importance of the training while announcing that there are some 75 mentally ill inmates in the prison system.Samuels told the small gathering that most of the 75 inmates were housed at the Camp Street Prison, but were all dispersed to other prisons following the 2017 prison unrest.He recalled that inmates who received treatment from the Mental Health Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital continue to receive treatment on a regular basis.“I see this training as a step in the right direction — that will make us more equipped, and help us to identify persons with special needs and those deemed vulnerable, so that they can be adequately catered for. The Prison Officers and Police (ranks) are expected to pass on the knowledge,” Samuels added.The Prison Director has said that despite their challenges, these inmates are part of the general prison population. He emphasised their need to be treated with the same respect as others.“They ought to be protected from bullying, because, in a prison environment, if someone is deemed weak, several things could happen. They can be made to wash people’s clothes, which is a violation of their rights; their food can be taken away by persons who are stronger,” he said.Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has said the training is in response to the Patterson Report on the prison fire in 2016, which had several recommendations listed under the subject ‘vulnerable persons.’The minister recalled that one of the recommendations was to house inmates with mental issues together. “But in the context of very difficult financial times, the best that can be done is at least the training of officers to take care of these vulnerable prisoners,” he disclosed.Given the serious nature of the training, Ramjattan urged the participants to make use of the tools they would be given, so they can pass on the knowledge to their colleagues. He requested that they also attend every session, be punctual, and participate as much as possible.The opening of this training session was also addressed by Acting British High Commissioner Ron Rimmer, who noted that “this training is the latest in a series of tangible outputs that the United Kingdom had undertaken, or would be undertaking in the near future.”An inquiry into the March 2-4, 2016 Camp Street Prison Riot recommended that several interventions be taken to correct the deficiencies at the courts and Police and Prison systems.The classification “vulnerable group” within the prison system is not specific to persons with mental health issues, but also include Indigenous people, substance abusers, HIV positive persons, old persons, and children.The training is being facilitated through the non-profit organisation CreateBetterMinds, with two experts in the areas of mental health. The five-day training will end on Friday, February 9.