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Prison Chief Speaks Out

Dr Bernard Nottage tours the prison yesterday.

Dr Bernard Nottage tours the prison yesterday.

By DANA SMITH

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

PRISON Superintendent Dr Elliston Rahming said the Free National Movement's crime bills share the blame for the pressing problem of overcrowding at Her Majesty's Prison.

Dr Rahming pointed out the extent of the problem to the new National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage yesterday, who called the situation "unacceptable".

Dr Nottage said it was "inhumane" to have prisoners "warehoused" in cramped cells.

"In Maximum Security, my understanding is that they may have four, five, up to six people in a cell that's meant for two," he said, also noting the number of persons on remand far exceeds the number of sentenced prisoners.

Dr Rahming explained that the Maximum Security facility was designed to house 450 inmates, but now has a population of more than 800.

"Now part of the problem is in November, thereabouts, last year, when the new laws were passed, we experienced a deluge of persons coming to prison as opposed to going on bail. So that has significantly bloated our population," he said.

"Up to October of last year, our daily population was about 1,300 now it's around 1,550 on a daily basis. Along with the passage of those bills there now has to be a mechanism by which there can be a greater outflow of persons from prison - small-time, minor offenders, perhaps, or even diversionary programmes away from the prison to community service and so forth."

Last year, the FNM government passed a package of 11 bills meant to stem crime through an overhaul of the penal code, including increased sentences for serious crimes, procedures for appeals and placing tighter restrictions on when judges can grant bail.

Dr Nottage had said earlier the government is looking into reviewing the severity of sentences for criminals.

"Everything is under review. A lot of the persons who have been - I can't call them victims - who have been convicted have made certain approaches to us about the severity of some of the sentences," he said last week.

He said yesterday: "One of the public relations problems that we have is that whenever we talk about releasing people from prison - because we saw a few young men to whom we spoke this morning who you may feel could be better in some other alternative arrangement - but today people are so fearful of crime and so concerned about crime that they really don't want you to release anybody. They want everybody to be in prison for five years, 10 years, 50 years, 30 years, but the truth of the matter is the facility we have cannot accommodate that . . . We really need to look at what the policy is about these matters."

Dr Nottage refuted claims the PLP is "soft on crime," explaining the government's agenda places focus on rehabilitation rather than just incarceration. He also spoke of a new Corrections Bill.

"There also has been for some time, successive governments have promised, a new Corrections Bill which would address many of the issues that we are speaking about now," he said. "That is something that is on our crime agenda, to pass the new Corrections Bill, so that the whole new philosophy of corrections as opposed to incarceration or to being in prison, is something that we would like to push to change the whole mindset," he said.

When asked to respond to Dr Rahming's claim the FNM's Bills contributed to overcrowding, FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis declined to comment as he had not heard the statement and did not know the context.

"I know that we've always said the prison was overcrowded, but as to exact details - I can't make a comment at this particular time," he said.

Comments

TalRussell 5 years, 4 months ago

Welcome to another shame being reveled about Hubert and Tommy's FNM regime for the elites and them rich foreigner. Now, we know that the FNM regime is not in a position to honor its millions of dollars in campaign debts. Wasn't it Hubert and Tommy that couldn't stop talking about the little bill the PLP hadn't pad up at ZNS? Please, appoint that Commission of Inquiry cause the natives have to know all the darkness connected for 5 long years to that wretched, defeated FNM regime. it so dark that it would have made Blind Blake a sighted Calypsonian. Thanks be Jesus its a miracle. Blind Blake is Blind no more.

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larry 5 years, 4 months ago

i thought prison was the place to be if you committed an offense punishable by law next Mr. Rahming would blame a murdered victim for being killed causing the prison to be over populated what is next look out Police Force you will be blamed for locking up the murderers, rapist, drug dealers and the rest you are overpopulating the prison.

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242 5 years, 4 months ago

That is by far the DUMBEST thing I ever read. It was a KNOWN fact that the majority of the crimes were committed by repeat offenders on BAIL....so why is it a problem that REPEAT offenders are denied bail. "The FNM don't let criminals out of jail that's why it crowded" And the sad part is the same people who run on bout the FNM did nothing to try and prevent crime are going to agree with this nonsense! I mean YOU TAL RUSSEL...this is too dumb

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TalRussell 5 years, 4 months ago

Regardless, our brothers and sisters are not FNM regime's meanness style of cattle. For there by the grace of God, go one of our own kin.

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242 5 years, 4 months ago

explain urself cuz no one ever know what u randomly babblin on about. like a 90 year old who senile

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1plpgovernment 5 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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1plpgovernment 5 years, 4 months ago

I guess my comment was removed because I should have said........Dr Rahming, I understand your plight. This place is much too overcrowded for the repeat offenders who make it this way. I suggest these persons should be sent to Atlantis and the other hotels.This way we boost room occupancy and help the tourism industry and meet the intelligent agenda of the prison and ministry of national Insecurity. That way they will live humane at the expense of those no good tax paying, living in fear Bahamians.

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welly 5 years, 4 months ago

How can he blame the bills the FNM passed contribute to overcrowding.The prison is overcrowded because the criminals keep committing crimes and going back again.“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Prisons are not meant to be pleasant places. They are supposed to deter those who may consider breaking the law.

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spoitier 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't agree with a lot things the FNM did, but give me a break "over crowded" you have to many criminals on bail if you ask me, let them live civilize and the overcrowding will stop.

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C_MonMan 5 years, 4 months ago

The FNM are responsible for all of the murders in the country, but please do not lock up the young misunderstood murderers because the prison conditions are just too rough and harsh for them. Well muddo, go figure!

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TalRussell 5 years, 4 months ago

Comrade C_MonMan how can you say Fox Hill Prison is overcrowded with murderers when Hubert's regime, regardless of how much steam they let off, hardly arrested any of the 500 murderers freely roaming the streets since they come back to power in 2007, so we gotta know them cells ain't full of no murderers. Right?

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notsogullible 5 years, 4 months ago

TalRussell, your ignorance is offensive!!! But then, YOU ARE PLP - nothing much else is expected I guess ...

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soursop 5 years, 4 months ago

the crowding is in the remand section if i read correctly. These are people who havent gone to trial and who far exceed those who are sentenced. Please read carefully before commenting

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242 5 years, 4 months ago

Once again REPEAT offenders for serious crimes are denied bail while on remaned. almost all murdered n muder qccused were knowm to police and ir on bail. that is y they were denied bail. please dont tey to justify this garbage.

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bookiedread 5 years, 4 months ago

Dr. Rahming's comments are not becoming of a man in his position. Should these men who have be charged with serious offences be among the Bahamian community to continue in doing what put them there in the first place. Even though they have not been convicted we have seen men with the ankle monitors have their bails revoked for various infractions which include committing crimes. Let us be humane to them while they kill, rob and steal from peaceful, law abiding citizens. It makes sense for them to be comfortable than for serenity to reign in our society. Get real Dr. Rahming, if you blame Mr. Ingraham and the FNM then blame them for trying to make society a safer place for all Bahamians. We must remember the words of Malcolm X which is so appropriate, "You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter you says it or does it." Dr. Rahming you and the Minister better think of the masses as oppose to the minority.

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TalRussell 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow! Comrade bookiearead you call 500 killed, scores raped, robbed and mugged over Hubert's five year reign one of "trying to make society a safer place for Bahamians? Anyone thinking like this may seriously give some serious thought to visiting the head doctor for some of that electric shock treatment, cause you sure as hell someone something to beam some of that electron therapy into your red shirts brain.

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leeza 5 years, 4 months ago

last time I saw Mr. Rahming dressed in this regailor was when there was an incident at the prison but it was not pressed at the time. Now there he is chest stick out and he proudly escorts the great doctor who a couple of week ago tried to start a riot in Bain Town tsk tsk tsk. If you ask me the Bahamain people have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, runamuck, lied too and had. I was saying it all along when the PLP become the government they were going to say the country finances were worse then they expected and would not be able to do alot of things they wanted. I am not surprised I saw that coming but now they trying to get criminals out of jail, that one I did not see that.

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spoitier 5 years, 4 months ago

Have an open mind, the FNM said the same thing when they came into power, it is call politics. In fact Hubert Ingraham says worst things than Perry Christie does, Mr. Ingraham would've throw anyone under the bus to win.

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notsogullible 5 years, 4 months ago

They have to say that about the country being broke because by the time they stuff their pockets in traditional PLP fashion, they will not be able to give the ghetto masses what they promised during their campaign.

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dpratt 5 years, 4 months ago

Can we all come up with solutions instead of the same old partisan discussion? I tried to read some of the comments above, and I gave up because it's the same stupid PLP FNM talk. I suggest building another prison. Prisoners can be rehabilitated inside the prison. Since these people, obviously, don't know how to act on the outside, then I don't see why they should be released on bail to continue to bring terror to our communities. The elections are over people! I say this to The Tribune staff as well. I love this country more than any party affiliation. So lets come up with ideas to fix things and go out and do some civic work of our own. Stop talking and spend more time thinking of ways you can help!!!

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positiveinput 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes the prison may be overcrowded at the time but as long as there is no threat of prisoners overpowering the guards (which was never mentioned), inmates harming each other excessively, or there is no shortage of human needs (food and water) the main focus should just be on ways to reform the inmates to a better way of life where merited. Yes election time has passed and gone but remember those nice mass gatherings of either PLP's, FNM's or DNA's. I'm sure no party leader ever once looked at the thousands of people whom had a choice of obtaining the same information from either their televisions, radio or news paper once considered overcrowding then. In fact overcrowding could be the first way to punish/reform some inmates cause I'm sure an individual accussed of a pity crime would think twice just from that experience.

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Ironvelvet 5 years, 4 months ago

Excuse me folks the prisons have been overcrowded from THAT time! My family member who was incarcerated around 1999 commented to me that then there were 5 men sleeping like sardines on a the concrete floor of a cell made initially for 3. SO, this has been a problem through many years under 2 of the major parties (FNM, PLP).

At the end of the day yes the prisoners need rehabilitation to decrease the recidivism rate and now with the increase of offenders we need a NEW prison to accomodate them. A prison is part of the infrastructure of a country. Updating the infrastructure of our land is something that is just now being addressed in recent years. The FNM did some major contributions to that (new roads, pipes, airport, etc., etc.) Now, its time the PLP did some updating. If they are so appalled at the crime, if Dr. Nottage is so concerned about their living conditions do something about it...upgrade them.

I commented on high recidivism rates before. I direct all of you interested in looking at the prison system in Norway namely, Bastoy, it was an article recently posted within the last week on CNN. The recidivism rate for Norway is 20%, for the USA its in the high 70s% I don't know about our beloved Bahamas, but I'm willing to bet we are in the high 80s%

Now, I don't know where ya'll gonna find the money needed to do all I suggested, sorry finance is not my strongsuit :-), but something needs to be done. The answer is NOT less sentences, and no remand for repeat offenders. That my friends is ridiculous.

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