PM warns prison officers not to smuggle phones and drugs into facility

Prime Minister Philip Davis yesterday decried the behavior of corrupt prison officers at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS), noting that workers who smuggle cell phones and drugs into the facility will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“As officers in charge of upholding and enforcing the laws and rules of this institution, I would have thought it unnecessary to remind you of the need to ensure that your own behavior also falls within the laws and rules which you impose on others, but sadly, this is not always the case,” Davis said during an empowerment seminar at the prison.

Prime Minister Philip Davis (left) greets Acting Commissioner of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) Doan Cleare yesterday, while arriving at the staff empowerment seminar for prison officers. Photos: Torrell Glinton

“I understand that some among you are still tempted to facilitate the prohibited use of cell phones and continue to collude in the smuggling and use of illegal drugs within the institute.

“Let there be no doubt that my administration’s policy is to hold any lawbreakers among you to the highest account and to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law if you find yourself afoul of the law.”

Davis said such behavior by officers “completely undermines” the purpose of BDOCS.

“How can we ask inmates not to break laws when they know that some officers do?” he said.

“And how can we claim that personal self-discipline and adherence to law and order is a better place for all of us to live if the very people charged with upholding that lesson behave in ways which go completely against it?”

With the construction of a new $40 million block at the BDOCS set to begin as early as this year, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe said he expects the new building to reduce those issues.

Munroe said the 700-bed high-medium prison will be steel fabricated.

“So, there will be no place to dig and hide contraband, no place to dig and hide phones,” he said.

“It will be more controlled. It will be modern so that you can have it surveilled by cameras to cut down on contraband and the ability for people to communicate with the outside.”

Munroe said the new building will take up to two years to complete and construction is expected to begin by late 2022 or early 2023.

“That’s one of the specific directions given to me by the prime minister,” he said.

“And we have approval for a negotiation to begin between the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Finance and a public-private partnership vendor. On the assumption that that is successfully done, then we would hope to begin, if not later this year, early next year, with a projected construction time of 18 to 24 months so that it can be commissioned and we can start to transfer people into it.”

Prison officers in attendance at the staff empowerment seminar at Faith United Baptist Church. 

Munroe said there are also plans to make better use of technology, like CCTV, to combat the issue of misconduct by prison officers.

He also noted that while there is a manpower shortage at the prison, 100 new recruits are set to enter the system this month.

Munroe said the government is working to have the prison certified as a correctional institution, noting that the government is looking to hire two psychiatrists and a child mental health expert.

“We also are aggressively, as the prime minister indicated, funding the training of prison officers,” Munroe said.

“We are not certified as a correctional institution, because you have to have certified correctional officers to be certified as a correctional institution. We intend to address and correct that urgently.”

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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