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U.S. slams prison conditions

Violence by guards against prisoners and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions are the most serious human rights problems in The Bahamas, according to a human rights report released by the U.S. state department yesterday. 

“At times citizens and visitors alleged instances of cruel or degrading treatment of criminal suspects or of migrants by police or immigration officials,” the report said.

“In June, a man alleged the Bahamas Department of Corrections (BDOC) officers beat him and denied him medical treatment.

BDOC officials charged a prison officer with ‘using unnecessary force.’ He was awaiting the decision of a disciplinary tribunal.”

The report said other problems included poor detention conditions; corruption; violence and discrimination against women; and discrimination based on ethnic descent, sexual orientation or HIV status.

“From January to November, 143 complaints were lodged with the Complaints and Corruption Branch, with unethical behavior, receiving a bribe, stealing, stolen property, damage, unlawful arrest, causing harm, and extortion the most common, in descending order,” the report read.

“The [Royal Bahamas Police Force] received and reportedly resolved these complaints through its Complaints and Corruptions Branch, but the responses to those complaints were made public only upon completion of an investigation. The RBPF took action against police misconduct, consistently firing officers for criminal behavior.”

The report also claims that the Police Complaints Inspectorate, which is tasked with investigating such complaints, has not met since September 2017.

While noting the government acknowledgement of corruption in the prison, the report cites a study of the prison which revealed that 62 percent of inmates claim they have obtained drugs from staff at the prison.

In recent reports, the U.S. State Department has highlighted poor conditions at the BDOC.

According to the most recent report, prison and detention center conditions have failed to meet international standards once again. It lists “overcrowding, poor nutrition, and inadequate sanitation and ventilation” as some of the issues at the facilities.

“Prisoners also reported infrequent access to drinking water and inability to save potable water due to lack of storage containers for the prisoners,” the report said.

“Many cells also lacked running water, and in those cells, inmates removed human waste by bucket. Sanitation was a general problem, with cells infested with rats, maggots, and insects.

“Ventilation was also a general problem. Prisoners in maximum security had access to sanitary facilities only one hour a day and used slop buckets as toilets.”

Nearly 1,800 inmates are held “in spaces designed to accommodate 1,000,” according to report.

“Pretrial detainee juveniles were held with adults at the Fox Hill remand center,” it said.

“Prison conditions varied for men and women.”

The report also highlighted the lack of an independent authority tasked with investigating allegation of “inhuman conditions” at the prison and the detention center.

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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