When it comes to health matters, an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has found that the overcrowding at Guyana’s prisons put inmates at risk of contracting contagious diseases.Data suggests the importance of reducing prison overcrowdingIt is a situation that the Citizen Security and Strengthening Programme (CSSP) Prison Survey report zeroed in on. Completed and handed over to the Government recently, the report found that 44.1 per cent of inmates had been stricken with the flu and other chest infections.The report states that 8.9 per cent of prisoners had gastro-intestinal problems; 4.5 per cent were affected by tuberculosis; 2.4 per cent suffered from depression and anxiety, 0.8 per cent were infected with HIV/AIDS and the remainder had other conditions such as malaria and chicken pox.“During their stay in prison, 67.4 per cent of inmates got sick. Besides, 45.9 per cent of the inmates said that HIV/AIDS tests were performed on them to verify whether they were infected or not,” the report states, adding that 53 per cent were not tested.According to the report, 80.6 per cent of the inmates, after being diagnosed with an illness, continued to share a cell with other inmates. Approximately 18.1 per cent responded in the negative, while the question was not applicable to the remainder.Meanwhile, the survey found that 46 per cent of inmates were taken to the hospital at some point during their incarceration. This was not so for 53.1 per cent of the prison population, while the question was not applicable for a select few.“In summary, given on the one hand the overcrowded and poor state of facilities, and the scope and type of diseases reported by the inmates, it is very likely that some inmates get sick from contagious diseases.“Authorities should pay special attention, because care and medicines are mostly in place, the overcrowding may be the trigger for the large reported cases of diseases,” the report also states.PopulationAs of January 2017, there were a total of 2043 inmates in Guyana’s five jails, although the largest one – the Camp Street Prison – was subsequently gutted in a fire. At the time, the Georgetown prison had 963 inmates, 521 of whom were on remand; Lusignan had 153, of which 32 were remanded; Mazaruni, 360 and Timehri, 130 inmates, including 28 remand prisoners.All of the prisoners were male, while New Amsterdam Prison had a male prison population of 352 and a female population of 85. One and fifty of these men and 31 women were on remand.In 2016, a fire had raged through the Camp Street Prison and claimed the lives of 17 prisoners. Afterwards, a Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which cost the treasury some $13 million was ordered by President David Granger.According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, the combination of overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement are all ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent.Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prisons to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons. In the wake of another fire in July, which gutted the wooden section of the Camp Street Prison, the need to reduce the prison population was further emphasised to the Government.Since last year, Government had received a loan from the IDB to support its Criminal Justice System Project. The key objective of the Project is reducing the prison population.