Ninety-two inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) graduated from a Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) training and certification program yesterday.
The inmates received qualifications in a variety of fields including auto mechanics, barbering, basic carpentry, basic masonry, basic electrical, basic plumbing, basic garment making and introduction to computers.
One of the graduates said the program is indicative of the transformation taking place at the facility.
Anatole McQuay, 43, said he has been incarcerated for 25 years.
He enrolled in BTVI for barbering and garment manufacturing and successfully obtained certificates in both.
“It was very hard, but the new system in place of correction; the prison came a long way from where it was when I entered to where it is now,” he said.
“Circumstances are changing, and the mindset is changing, and basically, the inmates have hope, hope like they never had before.
“Some persons came in here and they couldn’t read. They couldn’t write. There are programs in place for them to better themselves.
“The ones who really want to do something and elevate are the ones who are capitalizing on opportunities, but a few, which are the minority, are not interested, but there are trendsetters. People look up to those who are really role models in here and try to do the same thing and emulate that.”
McQuay was sentenced to death on April 1, 1996, for a 1994 murder and attempted armed robbery. However, he was re-sentenced to life in 2011. His case is now before the Privy Council, and he said he hopes to be released next year.
If he is released, he said he would use the skills he acquired from the program to start his own businesses.
“I’m going to open a barbershop along with garment manufacturing, in terms of costumes like the carnival costumes; I’m going to incorporate that into my manufacturing,” he said.
McQuay also admitted that although his engagement fell through and he has no children, he is hopeful about his future.
“I lost my mother since I was incarcerated,” McQuay revealed.
“She left me an inheritance, and basically I’ll be able to use that to open up my companies when I get out and capitalize on the skills I learned in barbering and garment manufacturing.”
He added, “I’m very optimistic.”
The group was the third cohort to graduate from the program, which is an initiative of the Citizen Security and Justice Program, which is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
According to BTVI President Dr. Robert Robertson, 320 inmates have graduated from BTVI since the program began in December 2018. The goal is to train at least 600 inmates.
“We are hopeful that with these skills, inmates will be able to reinvent themselves and become adequate contributors to society after their release,” he said.
“Clearly, inmate education has become a priority for the government.”
Speaking to the inmates, Dr. Robertson said, “Your return to society will surely aid in decreasing the skills gap in the country.”
With 1,600 inmates at BDOCS, overcrowding continues to be a challenge. However, Department of Corrections Commissioner Charles Murphy said he hopes this program will reduce the number of people returning to prison.
As he praised the graduates for their accomplishments, Murphy noted that of the 20 graduates released so far, at least one has found employment using skills acquired through the program.
“This program is the main entity that is assisting us in reducing recidivism in The Bahamas.”