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


HMPS Mazaruni, postcard, 1910Over the past two years there has been a general shift in models of incarceration in the former British colony of 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 investigators and 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.

New Amsterdam Jail

It also confronts squarely the issue of colonial legacies in modern forms of punishment. In this respect, the project aims to show that it is possible to address the negative continuities of one area of the Britain’s imperial past through an international collaboration in which researchers, practitioners and policy-makers can together address difficult historical issues in a former British colony, in a way that promises positive social change for the future.

This project is a collaboration between Professor Clare Anderson (Leicester) and co-investigator Dr Mellissa Ifill (University of Guyana), in partnership with the Guyana Prison Service. The researchers on this project are Ms Estherine Adams and Dr Kellie Moss.

LtoR: Deputy Director of the Guyana Prison Service Mr Pilgrim/ researchers Estherine Adams, Clare Anderson & Kellie Moss/ Officer in Charge of Mazaruni Prison Mr Cameron

Listen to project presentations: University of Guyana, 16 April 2018

Project Workshops: History and Security Sector Reform, University of Guyana, November 2018 and Prisons and the Useable Past, University of Leicester, January 2019.

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