Inmates to manufacture beds at prison
The government has allocated $365,000 to manufacture 300 beds at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS), which will be built by the inmates themselves, said National Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday.
As he contributed to the budget debate, Dames noted that, “This manufacturing by inmates is two-fold, whereby it will provide the customization for the beds to be made in the appropriate size to adequately outfit cells and it will also provide inmates with the opportunity for practical application of their technical skills.”
He outlined several initiatives the government has planned for the overhaul of the facility, which will address some of the longstanding issues.
“The incessant complaints from officers, inmates, the general public and human rights groups alike, about the decades-long problem of overcrowding and the practice of slopping in the Maximum Security Unit have not fallen on deaf ears with this Hubert Minnis-led government and this minister of national security,” Dames continued.
“…As a measure to reduce the level of overcrowding within the facility, BDOCS will continue its work with the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, Correctional Service Canada and other global partners to prepare for a parole system as a measure to reduce the level of overcrowding within the facility.
“Mr. Speaker, we cannot effectively address rehabilitation without first correcting the problem of overcrowding.
“I am not suggesting that parole implementation is a panacea for the countless years of previous administrations not addressing the problems in maximum security.
“The problems that exist will not be fixed overnight but this initiative demonstrates that we remain ‘the people’s government’ and are committed to criminal justice reform and to improving the physical environment at BDOCS for those employed there and those that are incarcerated.”
Dames noted that the Christie administration left behind a draft parole bill that the government is currently working.
“This government of action has already completed considerable work on that initial draft and we will return to the Bahamian people with a timetable to get the bill to this honorable House,” he said.
He noted that once additional space becomes available as a result of parole, “suitable inmates housed within maximum security can be assessed, reclassified according to their risk level and transferred to other housing units to allow for appropriate prison grade toilets to be installed in the Maximum Security Unit”.
“This will allow us to eradicate the colonial practice of slopping,” he said.
The government has also budgeted $133,000 for the purchase of new vehicles for the department, to ensure that court escorts are done in a timely fashion; to provide medical and emergency transport; for efficient sanitation services; to recover vehicles with mechanical failure; and to deliver inmates meals and to transport staff.
The national security minister also noted that preliminary research and analysis show the need for a modern medium security unit to complement the transition from a penal institute to a corrections facility.
He said this research is continuing with a view to begin construction on that unit, “in the not-too-distant future”.