Forum focuses on challenges of rehabilitating, reintegrating prisoners into society

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) yesterday kicked off its “Beyond Our Prisoners” symposium which addressed the challenges of reducing, rehabilitating and reintegrating prisoners in The Bahamas.

The event also launched “Our Prisoners” which is a collection of papers arising from a 2016 survey of inmates at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services in Fox Hill.

This initiative was co-produced with the University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Ministry of National Security.

The results of this study will be used to explore the types of policy and program approaches to consider when addressing these challenges.

“When you begin to make more informed decisions, you’re not throwing money away, and that’s the key. More importantly, when you’re making more informed decisions based on evidence, you’re more likely to get better results and that is what we are seeking to do,” said National Security Minister Marvin Dames on the sidelines of the event.

“So, we’re taking this approach because we’re genuinely concerned about the rehabilitation of our young men and women because this is very important. The more people we incarcerate, the weaker we are as a society.”

Dames stressed that yesterday’s event was extremely important for the ministry, as it demonstrates exactly what it is trying to do with correctional services in The Bahamas.

He added that the country must move beyond the point of just incarcerating individuals.

“This is important because we are cognizant of the fact that more effective crime prevention initiatives [are] one way to reduce prison overpopulation and overcrowding. Every day beyond the prison walls, we at the Ministry of National Security are working in partnership with the many stakeholder ministries and civil society. We have realized for some time now that investment in prison alone without complementary investment in diversionary and post-release services is an investment that is bound to fail,” Dames said in his remarks.

“So, we are honored. More than $1,724,668 have been allocated to improving behaviors for non-violent conflict resolutions. This is one of the four components of the Citizen Security and Justice Program. Today, we complete the first part of the program to train 400 community leaders in sexual violence prevention, gender-based violence prevention skills [and] effective parenting skills for effective conflict resolutions.”

The collection of papers covers the history of incarceration in The Bahamas, the family and gang lives of inmates, how inmates spend their days, prison conditions and the well-being of inmates.

Attendees at yesterday’s conference heard a total of three panel discussions addressing legislative change, diversion and alternatives to incarceration, and improving prospects for re-entry and reintegration into society.

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