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Prison set for overhaul

Inmates on remand have had to double up in some cells

The cells in the Remand Center at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) are cramped.

There is no lighting in the cells and there appeared to be little to no ventilation when The Nassau Guardian toured the facility yesterday with Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe and Acting Commissioner of Corrections Doan Cleare.

Some cells had three or four inmates. Others had as many as 10.

“We have had to double up,” Cleare said as he guided a delegation through the musty two-story building.

“They’ve been doubled up for the last two or three days. They should be sorted out by tomorrow.”

Inmates looked on as the delegation, which included prison and Ministry of National Security officials, passed through the narrow hallways.

Some sat on the floor while others watched from the lower bunks of beds or buckets.

Although the facility was dirty, the smell was not overpowering as the delegation navigated deeper in the building. 

However, there was a strong, vomit-inducing smell when The Guardian firstentered. 

Most of the remand center appeared to be in a state of disrepair and renovations were ongoing on the remaining part. 

The part under renovation was freshly painted, had clean bunk beds and had lights inside the cells.

They also had new toilets, which officials indicated cost roughly $2,000 each, that were separated from the rest of the cells by a short wall.

An example of a damaged toilet at BDOCS. TORRELL GLINTON

The commissioner said renovations cost $84,000 so far and are expected to cost roughly $2 million in total.

He said a pharmacy will also be added to the facility in the next two weeks.

“Moving forward, in this building, inmates will not be allowed to eat in their cells anymore,” Cleare said.

“So, we are under renovations for a new dining hall for the inmates.”

When asked if a rodent problem was caused by the inmates eating in their cells, he replied, “Yes.”

Cleare said the visitors’ area will be totally renovated in the next two to three weeks.

It will be transformed into a dining hall that can hold 30 inmates at a time, he said.

“We’re going to outfit the walls with video visitation, so the inmates can talk to their families,” Cleare said.

Local and international human rights agencies have long criticized conditions at the prison.

The United States Department of State issued several human rights reports highlighting those conditions.

In its 2021 report, the State Department noted the facility’s “harsh” conditions.

“Maximum-security cells for men measured approximately six feet by 10 feet and held up to six persons with no mattresses or toilet facilities,” it observed.

“Inmates removed human waste by bucket. Prisoners complained of the lack of beds and bedding. Some inmates developed bedsores from lying on bare ground.

“Sanitation was a general problem, and cells were infested with rats, maggots, and insects. The government claimed to provide access to toilets and showers one hour a day to prisoners in maximum-security areas.”

The American Correctional Association recently completed an assessment report on the remand center. However, that report has not yet been released.

The government has announced its intention to build a new high-medium facility at BDOCS.

Munroe said yesterday that government hopes to start construction on the new facility by January 15, 2023.

It will house 820 inmates and will include a special unit for mentally ill patients, he said.

Once it is completed, most of the other facilities at BDOCS will close and the new facility, a new juvenile facility and the remand center will be the ones open. 

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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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