New prison unit expected to be done in 17 months

A new high-medium security unit at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) will be completed in the next 17 months, according to Acting Commissioner of Corrections Doan Cleare.

“The government has already agreed to build a new facility, a new high-medium security prison which is 820 beds,” Cleare said while a guest on “Transforming Lives” radio show on Global 99.5 FM on Sunday.

“When this facility is finished within the next 17 months, the current medium security prison will be retrofitted. The medium security prison has eight dorms and these eight dorms will be now retrofitted into eight BTVI dorms, because we’re going to have all that specialized training for inmates in carpentry, plumbing – you name it.”

Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe said in March that the new facility will cost between $35 million and $40 million. 

No government has put the “necessary resources in place to make that place a correctional facility” since it officially became the Department of Correctional Services in 2014, Cleare said.

He said he communicated this to the government after he assumed the role of commissioner last September.

Cleare said the government has agreed to change that “for the first time in history”.

“The government has agreed to hire two psychiatrists, full time psychiatrists,” he said, adding that the prison will be taken in a new direction.

“The government has agreed to hire two psychologists, occupational therapists – the industry specialists. This is key … because every inmate that leaves that prison, the first cry they have, ‘I can’t find no job and if I can’t find a job, what will I do?’ They will be right back to the same thing that they do.”

Cleare said he wants to create jobs for inmates given that only 10 percent of them receive a trade while incarcerated. 

He said the remaining inmates spend about 23 hours in their cells because the classrooms at the prison are “too small” and the number of lecturers available is insufficient. 

“This prison was not built for education in its current physical structure,” Cleare said.

“It was built for punishment, dehumanization. When you’re going to build a place with no toilets and people are slopping, that’s dehumanizing. So it is our job now to seek to correct this moving forward.” 

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Jasper Ward

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

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