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Prison programs targeting recidivism rate

After a sharp drop, the rate of recidivism at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) has increased in the last seven years.

However, prison officials believe it’s now on the decline.

During a tour of the prison last week, Commissioner of Correctional Services Charles Murphy told The Nassau Guardian, “The recidivism rate is at 17 percent. It’s gradually declining.”

According to figures released by the prison in 2014, the recidivism rate was eight percent in 2012 and 2013.

In 2005, the rate stood at 42 percent; 32 percent in 2006; 19 percent in 2007; 21 percent in 2008; 19 percent in 2009; 19 percent in 2010; and 16 percent in 2011.

Murphy said the prison is focused on rehabilitating inmates and ensuring they don’t return to prison after release.

He said a collaborative program has been launched with the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) to provide inmates the opportunity to gain certifications while incarcerated.

“We have a number of other personal development programs that we have to assist inmates as to allow them to manage their emotions, their money, their time, themselves in general,” the commissioner said.

“We have found that a number of persons who come to prison, many times it’s simply because of out-of-control emotions, unable to reason, unable to sit down and discuss, and so we have programs geared toward assisting them.”

Andrea Sweeting, who serves as the director of education for staff and inmates at the prison, said many of the inmates are actively engaging in the programs at BDOCS.

“Well, for some, they are very grateful for it because they look at it and say they did not have the opportunity but now they’re having the opportunity to actually [take] as many classes as they can take so when they leave from here, they have something,” Sweeting said.

“They will come and tell you, ‘Oh, please remember my certificates because I need those certificates.’”

She said a lot of inmates have been employed upon release as a result of the program.

The commissioner noted that a dormitory is being built at the prison for inmates enrolled in the program.

It will feature toilets and showers, a study room and bunk beds for inmates.

It will house 100 inmates.

Murphy said it is important to take care of the prison in order to take care of crime on the street.

“If you neglect the prison, you create problems on the street,” he said.

“…We need to recognize that the person who goes to prison today, [it] is likely that that individual will be out tomorrow sometime, right back to doing the same things that he would’ve been sent to prison for.

“We think it’s best for us to try to assist the individual to change his mindset so when he reenters society and they can live in a more peaceful, harmonious way.”

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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