Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Guyana

World Mental Health Day was first observed on 10 October 1992. At that time, globally, not only was mental illness commonly associated with social stigma, but it was often unhelpfully and sometimes dangerously elided with cognitive and developmental disabilities. In 1992, the authors of the ICD (the International Classification of Diseases, then just into its tenth edition) and the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, favoured in the United States, then awaiting its fourth edition) were beginning to understand that mental illness spans a range of multiaxial conditions that require nuanced clinical diagnoses. Both classification systems recognized that mental illness has an organic cause but is frequently exacerbated by environmental pressures.

World Mental Health Day, as it was conceived just over a quarter of a century ago, has been focused on raising consciousness about mental health and in ensuring mental illness is treated equally to physical disease. It has also provided a platform to urge governments to adopt policies that integrate individuals who have been or are being treated for mental health conditions into community life, rather than long-term hospitalization in often inadequate state or county facilities. At a time when Western nations, such as the United States, are witnessing more than 25% of its citizens being treated for diagnosable mental health conditions, and when a further 25% are likely to suffer from depression during the course of their lives, it is hard to know where to begin to deal with experiences that stem from multiple factors, some biological and others environmental.

The ICD was adopted in the Caribbean region as the official diagnostic manual by the Pan American Health Organization prior to the independence of many of its nation states. But, partly due to the colonial histories of the region, including a tense relationship with Western medicine, the topic of mental health has only emerged as a priority across the region in the last decade. During the 2010s, CARICOM governments and advocacy groups came to realize that heightened awareness is just part of the solution to what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a “global health burden” that requires sustained funding, a robust healthcare infrastructure, and treatment courses that integrate drug interventions with person-centred therapy. In Guyana, where there are only 10 trained psychiatrists (3 of them newly graduated in autumn 2019) and limited hospital provision for mental health care (centred on Georgetown Public Hospital), and where mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders are prevalent among the nation’s prisoner population, this is a difficult task.

A starting point for the Guyanese government has been to increase funding for the Ministry of Public Health to ensure that its Mental Health Unit (formed in May 2016) has the physical infrastructure to identify, document, and consciousness-raise about mental health. Led by Dr Util Richmond-Thomas, the Mental Health Unit has used capital development funding (the mental health budget was $105 million Guyanese dollars in each of 2017 and 2018, compared to $17 million GYD in 2016, followed by $43 million GYD in 2019) to better integrate with social care services, to ensure that it is representative of Guyana’s rural regions, and to prioritise specific causes, such as the 2019 focus of World Mental Health Day on “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention”. This theme dovetailed with World Suicide Prevention Day, which had its own dedicated date a month earlier, on 10 September, organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in collaboration with WHO. While Dr Richmond-Thomas recognizes that only a coordinated effort will reduce the health burden of suicides in Guyana, numerous conversations during my two visits to Georgetown in April and September 2019 give me a sense of hope that the national health narrative is on the turn.

Self-harm and suicide rates in Guyana were one of the worst globally in 2017 and they have become a high priority for its Ministry of Public Health, set against the recognition that 79% of suicides occur in low- to middle-income countries (according to recent WHO statistics). Part of the solution is for citizens to feel that they can, without stigma or shame, ask for help in crisis situations, though social and gender coding means (as is the case in parts of the UK and US) that mental health challenges for men and boys often goes undetected until it reaches crisis point.

Another element of the solution is to try to reduce, if not eliminate, social isolation that many advocacy groups identify as the major cause of depression globally but is often a trigger for suicidal ideations. While no national healthcare or social services system is expansive enough to prevent all suicides, the fact that a high prevalence of cases occur in the rural regions of Guyana where access to health facilities is limited (particularly amongst farming communities, where a common means of suicide is the ingestion of agrochemicals), and that mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders are common in Guyana’s jails, are illustrations of the importance of such developments.

On World Suicide Prevention Day 2019, following a 500-person march through the streets of Georgetown, Util Richmond-Thomas delivered a powerful speech titled “Working Together to Prevent Suicides” at the National Cultural Centre, focusing on the complex interplay of factors that contribute to mental health challenges and the need for public-private partnerships to help promote anti-suicide messages. The statistics about the reduction in documented suicides in Guyana in 2018 are positive, reducing from 184 suicide-related deaths nationally in 2017 to 141 documented deaths from suicide in 2018 (according to Ministry of Public Health statistics) out of a population of 747,000. The success of reducing this prevalence was also evident in the awareness of the young Guyanese marchers on 10 September on their two-mile march through the streets of Georgetown. It was an uplifting experience for me, but I was left to wonder whether the message and resources are getting through to the 25% of Guyanese living in rural regions away from the Atlantic coastline.

Given that mental health challenges are part of the fabric of everyday life, only medical interventions via inpatient treatment or a course of prescribed drugs are easy to document and trace. Unless suicide has a clear cause it is also difficult to know if a more accessible health centre or more visible public health information in scattered communities or better job prospects would make a difference overall. The truth is that all these measures would help. As other countries have found, no single-step solution to tackling debilitating mental health conditions is likely to work in the long term, while drug interventions might only temporarily mask complex underlying issues.

There is a temptation to turn to faith for the answer to the despair that can sometimes leads to suicide. This faith can take lots of forms. It can be the faith of organized religion, which is particularly important for Guyana, a country in which 63% of its citizens (according to the 2012 Census) are Christian, 25% Hindu and 7% Muslim. It can be faith in a scripture or a faith in a community of believers, but it is important that it also a faith attuned to the complex socio-economic pressures that might sometimes strain against what these three great religions deem as right living. Or, on a secular level, it can be the faith that life goes on despite hardships, linked to the belief that all individuals can be agents of change, especially when they share and work collaboratively.

Reflecting on the 2019 Suicide Prevention Day March in Georgetown, I was particularly struck by a young University of Guyana student, Dwright Ward, studying in the Department of Communications, who proudly held the banner “You have the power to say this is not how my story will end!” I have looked at this photograph a number of times since that day – a bright young Guyanese student with a powerful message – and I have thought about both its cultural specificity and its transnational resonances because it puts into action the 2018 theme of “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World”.

On that day of 10 September 2019, so many young Guyanese were willing to put hope and awareness over their studies and their work. This image offers hope for an open narrative that can help safeguard mental health, though it can never guarantee it. And the image offers a powerful symbol for a young nation that recognizes only a sustained, collaborative and multi-pronged approach will shift the dial on suicide prevention long term.

Guyana Inter-Agency Suicide Prevention Helpline: +592-600-7896, guyagency@yahoo.com

Martin Halliwell is Professor of American Studies and Head of the School of Arts, University of Leicester, UK. All photographs taken by the author.

Understanding the Challenges facing the Guyana Prison Service

Mellissa Ifill

The Guyana Prison Service does not attract much public acknowledgement, attention or scrutiny under normal circumstances. Great awareness of and discussion on the GPS occur only when something goes drastically wrong – and much has gone drastically wrong over the past two decades – these include prisoners escaping, rioting, protesting, setting fires (including one in 2016 Georgetown prison that resulted in the death of to 17 prisoners), attacking and sometimes killing prison officers and trafficking illegal items in prison. Additionally discussions about the conditions and nature of imprisonment usually only ensue in the aftermath of the preceding ‘gone wrongs’ or following high profile crimes. Despite this lack of continuous public attention, the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) has embarked upon a process to change from a mainly punitive to a mainly rehabilitative institution. This effort at transformation however has been difficult since the  security institution has been confronted with and has to address numerous systemic and historically derived deficiencies and challenges. The latter will be the subject of this blog post.

The Guyana Prison Service (GPS) was created under Section 4A of the Prison Act, Chapter 11:01, as a public authority, but the Act does not specify its essential functions. Notwithstanding this oversight, the GPS has an important function to perform in the criminal justice system. The main responsibility of the Guyana Prison Service as noted in its submission to the Disciplined Forces Commission (2004) is “to ensure the safe custody of the offenders who have violated the law of the land and are placed in physical confinement (Prisons) in order to protect the society”.  

As a corrective institution, the GPS has the dual responsibility of protecting society by creating secure incarceration arrangements while simultaneously engaging in activities and initiatives to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the society. This dual function is premised upon an inherited conventional notion of justice that views prisons as public liabilities/burdens rather than as an important tool in the societal transformation process and than can be used to generate economic resources while rehabilitating the offender.

Historically and in the contemporary era, the Guyana Prison Service has been unable to adequately fulfil this dual function of protecting the society and rehabilitating lawbreakers as it has continually been deficient, particularly in terms of financial resources, accommodation and qualified staff.

 Prison Conditions

Multiple reports over the past decades graphically underscore the depressing conditions in Guyana’s prisons. The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detail the ongoing crisis in the GPS. Confirming the dismal circumstances in Guyana’s prisons was a 2017 Citizen Security Strengthening Programme prison survey report that was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. These studies reaffirmed the findings of previous studies such as the 2001 Prison Reform Report that was conducted by the International Consultancy Group of the British Government Cabinet Office Centre for Management and Policy Studies; the Report of Board of Inquiry into the Escape of Five Prisoners from Georgetown Prison on February 23, 2002; The Guyana Prison Service 2001-2011 Strategic Development Plan; the Criminal Law Review Committee Report; The Report of the Disciplined Services Commission submitted to the National Assembly in May 2004; The 2009 Ministry of Home Affairs Review of the Guyana Prison Service.

The main concerns and problems highlighted in the aforementioned studies are:

  • Gross overcrowding which is inimical to rehabilitation and reintegration in society;
  • Inadequate security personnel, arrangements and equipment – i.e insufficient monitoring and warning mechanisms in the prisons;
  • Inhumane conditions in the prisons that both staff and prisoners have to endure;
  • Multiple violations of prisoners’ human rights;
  • Insufficient alternatives to incarceration offered by the criminal justice system.

Overcrowding & Inhumane Conditions

Guyana has six main prisons located in all three counties of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice, one of which caters for female prisoners. These are Georgetown [which prior to the massive fire that razed the wooden buildings had an official capacity of 600], New Amsterdam (Male) that is designed to accommodate 275 individuals, New Amsterdam (Female) which has an official capacity of 75, Mazaruni which has an official capacity of 390, Lusignan which accommodates 120 and Timehri which was designed to cater for 90. The total official capacity for all six prisons prior to the fire was 1550. Overcrowding has always been a feature of the prison locations and the three largest prisons, Georgetown, Mazaruni and New Amsterdam have been the most problematic, with the problems magnified in the former. At August 31, 2019, Guyana’s prisons housed 2099 prisoners.

  • New Amsterdam housed 477 – exceeding its male capacity by 133 and under its female capacity by 6;
  • Mazaruni (current under construction) housed 354 – under its capacity by 36;
  • Lusignan housed 147, exceeding capacity by 27;
  • Timehri housed 128, over its capacity by 38;
  • The remaining 993 prisoners are housed at Georgetown A & B locations which are still emergency housing arrangements that vastly exceed capacity. 

In the wake of the 2016 fire that razed the wood prison in Georgetown, overcrowding has worsened. Just under 1/3 of the prison population are currently housed in sheds in a field adjoining Lusignan Prison and these prisoners face an extremely harsh and inhumane existence including inadequate water and sanitation, poorly prepared meals; congested filthy blocks; some are forced to sleep on the floor others on filthy mattresses. Health care is inadequate and rehabilitative training or recreational activities are minimal to none. According to the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in its 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Guyana, “Prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.” Meanwhile the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent reported in 2017 that the conditions at the Lusignan Prison were horrific and that the cells were not suitable for human habitation. According to the report, prisoners complained of grossly unsanitary conditions including inadequate potable water, lengthy confinement in their cells with limited opportunities for sunlight.

Apart from convicted prisoners, a large numbers of remand prisoners awaiting trial are forced to live in these circumstances and their frustration can intensify as they face court delays, postponements and lockdowns for extensive periods since the prison system is understaffed. The preceding conditions not only violate the human rights of prisoners but they also force prison officials to work in insecure and dismal conditions and simultaneously place the security of both prisoners and officers at risk. Apart from Georgetown which is under construction, all the prisons are old; overcrowded with little space to institute comprehensive programmes to effectively rehabilitate prisoners, decaying physically, structurally insecure and in dire need of renovation or rebuilding. Altogether these circumstances have proven to be unsafe for both correctional officers and inmates alike. The newspaper headlines over the past two decades tell the story: Stabroek News February 25, 2010 “Public Safety…Inside Story: The problems of the Prison Service; Stabroek News February 7, 2010 “Fatal Prison Brawl …Inmate had Ranted about Killing Someone.”; Kaieteur News February 15, 2011 “Officers Fear Security Threat at Georgetown Prison”; Kaieteur News March 1, 2011 “Dwindling Prison Staff Will be Dire for Administration.”; Kaieteur News August 18, 2019 “Prison Service Understaffed, Overcrowding still an issue”; https://www.rt.com › World news Jul 10, 2017 “Inmates set fire to Guyana prison, 4 escape, 1 officer killed …”;

Police stand guard outside Georgetown Prison after a riot and fire at the facility in Georgetown, Guyana, Thursday, March 3, 2016. 17 prisoners died in the fire as they protested conditions inside the prison in the capital of the South American country, authorities said. (AP Photo/Bert Wilkinson)

Inadequate Staffing

In 2003, the authorised strength of the GPS was 452 while the number of officers employed was 369 which within the context of significant increase in the overall number of prisoners and in particular violent prisoners, endangers both officers and inmates (Disciplined Forces Commission Report 2004). In 2019, the GPS staff was just over 500 and it was short of staff by 101. Note also that the statistics hide the fact that many of the prison officers are women and civilian staff who do not secure the majority of male prisoners.

The Prison Act Chapter 11:01 requires that, “Every prison officer shall at all times carefully watch the prisoners and shall use the utmost vigilance to promote industry.” However, satisfying this condition is impossible in times when one prison warder has responsibility for three locations simultaneously.


The GPS noted as far back as 2003 that its greatest challenge to training officers is “recruiting … persons with the requisite qualifications/academic ability (Disciplined Forces Commission Report 2003, 251). This problem has persisted. Consequently, staff levels continue to be inadequate and prison officers are not properly trained to properly supervise the sizeable number of petty offenders who are given custodial sentences and the growing number of violent offenders. Security is further compromised with reports of widespread corruption, mismanagement, bribery, favouritism and dishonesty in the GPS. It is also reported that visitors pay prison officers to smuggle cell phones to family members in prison. Officers are also reported to sell marijuana directly to prisoners who in turn sell to other inmates. Raids conducted by the GPS always unearth contraband items that likely were brought into the prison by officers. Again, news reports tell the story: Guyana Standard June 19, 2019 “Prison officer allegedly caught with weed at Camp Street …” https://www.guyanastandard.com › Court; Demerara Waves October 25, 2016 “Female prison officer allegedly caught smuggling ganja inside the New Amsterdam Jail”; INews Guyana Mar 5, 2019 “Drugs, weapons seized in Lusignan Prison raid” https://www.inewsguyana.com › Crime.

Prohibited and illegal items found at the Lusignan Prison [Guyana Police Force photo Mar 5, 2019]

Prohibited and illegal items found at the Georgetown Prison [Guyana Police Force photo Dec. 8, 2018]

Reforming the Guyana Prison Service

While great attention has been placed on reforming law enforcement and the judicial system in Guyana, far less attention has been placed on comprehensive reform for correctional institutions and the penal system in general. The three systems, however, are inextricably connected within the criminal justice system and it is also necessary that sufficient attention be paid to the needs of the penal system.

Recommendations for improving the system that have emanated from the previously mentioned reports include:

  • Increasing the capacity, renovating and transforming the Mazaruni Prison to house high profile dangerous inmates;
  • Increasing staff levels and training to deal with increasing number of inmates;
  • Reviewing employment policies including salary structures to ensure qualified persons are employed and those that perform with distinction are promoted;
  • Auditing all prisoners, separating and accommodating them according to security need, audit and release remand prisoners in appropriate instances;
  • Create a manual that sets out security standards and procedures and create monitoring systems to oversee their implementation; 
  • Enhanced collaboration between the GPS, the GPF and the judiciary since the prisons are negatively affected by deficiencies in the court system.

Arising from these recommendations, the GPS has been targeted for reform and a number of initiatives have been undertaken, particularly over the past decade to transform the prison environment, improve professionalism among prison officers and employ more effective restoration and reintegration strategies. These include the:

  • Passage of the Prison (Amendment) Bill 2009 to modernise the prison service, enhance security within the prisons and offer increased protection for officers but which could contribute to further abuse of prisoners by prison officers; 
    • Separation of first time young offenders from hardened criminals;
    • Introduction and review of skills training and behavioural change programmes;
    • Conducting human rights training and other professional training programmes for recruits;
    • Establishment of a sentence management board to assist in the management of the sentences of convicted prisoners, including vulnerable prisoners or those suffering from any disabilities;
    • Establishment of Prison Visiting Committees which institutionalise civilian oversight of prisons, monitor the condition in prisons and seek to ensure the protection of inmates’ human rights;
    • Design of the Justice Reform Sector Programme which has placed emphasis on eliminating the backlog in both the civil and criminal cases, upgrading the court environment, digitising the court registries, training prosecutors and enhancing legislation and court procedures for Magistrates and Judges, training prosecutors and mediators in alternative sentencing systems to reduce the overcrowding in the prisons.

The transformation process has commenced but there is much, much more work to be done.

An historical perspective on Guyana’s jails

Clare Anderson

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the colonial administration of British Guiana managed over a dozen jails, three of which still stand today. These are: Camp Street (Georgetown), New Amsterdam, and Mazaruni. The history of prison building and incarceration in British Guiana was the focus of a recently completed project, funded by the British Academy and conducted by researchers from the University of Guyana and the University of Leicester. The project asked questions about the role of prisons in the colonial justice system, and about historical patterns and experiences of imprisonment. It sought to find out whether history can offer lessons from the past that might be useful for understanding jails today.

HMPS Mazaruni, 19th century

The project team comprised myself and Dr Kellie Moss (Leicester) and Dr Mellissa Ifill and Estherine Adams (Guyana). Together, we undertook extensive research on colonial-era records held in our respective national archives, where we discovered a rich history of continuity and change. We found that colonial prison administrators kept coming back to the question ‘what is prison for?’ From that stemmed near-continual discussion of the same topics. These included the desirability of the separate treatment of different kinds of offenders (and adults and juveniles); the role of religion in rehabilitation; the deficiencies of prison infrastructure; prison security and escape; the morale of prison officers; and the education and training of inmates.

We presented some of our research to a group of serving prison officers, in autumn 2018, and had the opportunity to visit Mazaruni and New Amsterdam. Three things became immediately apparent. First, a great deal of colonial-era infrastructure survives today. Second, at least some of the daily rhythms of incarceration (including modern prison regulations) date from the British period. Third, there remain many parallels between the past and the present, regarding the active debate of exactly those issues that were discussed in the past.

Estherine Adams and Kellie Moss, project workshop, Georgetown, November 2018

New Amsterdam and Georgetown Prisons are the oldest operating prisons in Guyana. They were built by the Dutch, and extended by the British after they took control of the colony in 1814. Later, in 1843, the British constructed Her Majesty’s Penal Settlement (HMPS) Mazaruni, near Berbice. They also built numerous other district prisons, along with several ‘lock-ups’ in the more remote regions. The government of Guyana built the other two modern institutions, Timehri and Lusignan, following Independence in 1966.

The project found that the history of Guyana’s jails is intertwined with the history of colonialism, notably enslavement, immigration, and population management. During the era of slavery, the owners of enslaved persons punished their human property for what they perceived as labour infractions or ill-discipline, often using extremely brutal measures. After emancipation, the colonial state took on this role, and this was the background to the development of prisons in the 1830s and 1840s. The British imprisoned emancipated slaves and others, including Asian indentured labourers, for a range of offences. These included crimes against property, but also what they called ‘idleness’, and breaches of harsh labour laws, including unauthorised absence from home or work.

Indentured Indian sugar workers, early 20th century

The project also discovered that the architectural design of and daily regimes instituted in Guyana’s prisons were strongly influenced by changing European and American thinking about their ideal form and function. The British adapted and built jails according to ‘modern’ prison design. Ideally, prisoners would occupy individual cells, and they would be punished and rehabilitated through a programme of education, work, training and Christian instruction. One notable feature of nineteenth-century punishment was the use of prisoners in colonial building projects. Inmates built and repaired streets and pavements, and constructed parts of the Sea Wall – in the latter case including through the draft of prisoners from Mazaruni to Georgetown. However, despite Britain’s claim to penal ‘modernity’, prisons could be violent places in which prisoners were chained, flogged or placed on harsh rations. Georgetown prison even had a treadmill, which constituted an extreme form of physical punishment.

Mazaruni Prison, 2017. Photograph: Obrey James.

From the very earliest days, where there were efforts to reform and rehabilitate prisoners, they were often frustrated by a lack of resource and difficulties in recruiting guards and other personnel. In large part, these failures reflected the fact that the British never came to a firm conclusion on the rationale for incarceration. Rather, jails always served a variety of purposes, and these were often incompatible with each other. For example, though the British wanted to use jails for different types of offenders, the pressure of numbers meant that prisoners were often transferred to inappropriate locations, and this put a strain on prisoner training, education and work. Also, guards often left employment, or retired early, due to stress and overwork. There even erupted various scandals where it emerged that guards had violently beaten and mistreated prisoners. This led to the establishment of a Board of Prisons in 1862, and the appointment of an Inspector General of Prisons from 1879. These measures increased government regulation over prisons, and enabled some positive interventions such as the introduction of tickets-of-leave (or what we would now call probation), which helped to rehabilitate and resettle inmates.

Several other themes emerged during our research project, notably regarding the mental health of inmates and guards. For example, we found archives that suggested that historically there was excessive consumption of alcohol (by inmates and guards), and that inmates routinely smoked marijuana. We also discovered that some prisoners hallucinated or had delusions, became suicidal, or were transferred to the ‘lunatic asylum’ in New Amsterdam. This led the research team to develop a more focused project, with the goal of exploring issues around the prevalence of mental, neurological, and substance abuse (MNS) disorders in Guyana’s jails. A collaboration between the universities of Leicester and Guyana, in partnership with the Guyana Prison Service and HMP Leicester, this project is both historical and contemporary. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, it will run until the autumn of 2021.

Social scientists know that attention to the relationship between lives and environments, and the production of an evidence base, are vital for successful research impact in a field now known as ‘global mental health’. As well as understanding individual health, we need to be sensitive to history, society and culture. Recently, researchers have argued that western concepts and models of MNS disorders require refinement, so that they do not produce misconceived diagnosis or become neo-colonial in their application of knowledge on a problem defined in the West. Our earlier historical research, against the background of this concern, forms the background to our new project.

The project team, University of Guyana, April 2019 – from left, Di Levine, Queenela Cameron, Deborah Toner, Clare Anderson, Dylan Kerrigan, Martin Halliwell, Estherine Adams, Shammane Joseph Jackson, Kellie Moss, Kristy Warren. Photograph: Mellissa Ifill.

The historians on the team, now including also Shammane Joseph Jackson and Dr Deborah Toner, are returning to the archives. Our team of anthropologists, criminologists, political scientists, and sociologists – Dr Tammy Ayres, Queenela Cameron, Professor Martin Halliwell, Dr Dylan Kerrigan, Di Levine and Dr Kristy Warren – are currently examining modern records and undertaking interviews, and will be running focus group workshops, with prisoners, prison officers, and prisoners’ families. Some of the things we want to find out about are how different communities – and men, women and youths – define/ defined and experience/ experienced MNS disorders; what constitutes/ constituted MNS disorders management and welfare provision; and how Empire and Independence impacted on prevalence, representations and experiences.

We want to see if it is possible to connect present-day challenges associated with MNS disorders to the history and legacies of the British Empire in Guyana. Our hypothesis is that the existence of MNS disorders in jails today can be traced back to the British colonial period. Thus, they cannot be disconnected from the country’s history as a sugar colony that employed and controlled indigenous people (Amerindians), enslaved Africans, and indentured labourers. We hypothesize that Empire created particular forms of trauma, shaped demography and religious practice, and instituted patterns of population control including through the building of jails. We seek to render this history actively part of the process of change today, by connecting new historical work to new research in and around prisons in Guyana today.

Clare Anderson is Principal Investigator of the ESRC GCRF project Mental Health, Neurological and Substance Abuse Disorders in Guyana’s Jails, 1825 to the present day.