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History and Security Sector Reform: Crime and Punishment in British Colonial Guyana, 1814-1966

This project aims to increase understanding of the historical roots of key issues pertaining to security, the administration of criminal justice, and prisoner and ex-prisoner rights and equality.

Following recent prison breaks, fires, riots and unrest, the crisis in Guyana’s penal system is unparalleled in the Caribbean region. Guyana has grave resource constraints; in terms of GDP it is the second poorest country (after Haiti) in the southern hemisphere. As a member of the Commonwealth, Guyana signed an agreement with the UK government earlier this year, to undertake an urgent review of security (Security Sector Reform Programme, SSRP). This research is of direct value to the SSRP, because it will co-create policy-relevant historical resources on crime and punishment in British colonial Guyana.

Over the past two years there has been a general shift in models of incarceration in Guyana, from punishment (punitive measures) to correction and rehabilitation (via training and education). Yet, Guyana’s government, prison service and general public know very little about the history of the country’s jails, particularly during the British colonial period (1814-1966). This project brings into partnership researchers from the UK and Guyana, working on crime and punishment from the vantage points of history, criminology, penology and development studies. It aims to produce a much-needed historical perspective on questions of how best to develop and administer criminal justice in Guyanese jails.

Principal Investigator: Professor Clare Anderson, University of Leicester

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International

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