17 inmates dead in fiery prison riot in Guyana; Commission of Inquiry to probe incident

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – A three-member panel is to be set up to investigate the riot at the country’s main jail which sparked a fire that left 17 prisoners dead and at least five others injured.

The deadly uprising at the overcrowded Camp Street, Georgetown prison – built for 600 but now housing approximately 984 inmates – came on the heels of unrest the day before, according to Prison Superintendent Kevin Pilgrim.

Speaking at a press conference with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan – who had described the situation as a crisis – and other high ranking prison officials, Pilgrim said that on Wednesday afternoon a mandatory monthly raid was conducted at the jail and 19 cellphones and a quantity of marijuana were seized during the two-hour operation.

Sometime later that day, inmates in the Capital A section which houses those committed to stand trial and others on remand, began lighting mattresses. Pilgrim said a total of nine fires were set, but those blazes were extinguished and the prison was returned to some state of normalcy, even as inmates demanded to have the contraband returned.

Further unrest was reignited the following morning as prisoners were being moved from one section of the prison, he said, with inmates starting a fire that got of control and engulfed part of the facility.

Pilgrim said the deceased appeared to have died from burns and smoke inhalation.

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