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Exclusive: Lawyer's Health Fears After Being Freed From Jail

Attorney Geoffrey Farquharson speaks exclusively to Tribune journalist Lamech Johnson.

Attorney Geoffrey Farquharson speaks exclusively to Tribune journalist Lamech Johnson.

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

FRESH from serving 14 days in jail for refusing to pay a $2,000 fine for contempt of court, a lawyer is warning of an impending health crisis at Her Majesty’s Prison.

Geoffrey Farquharson, on his release, expressed his concern over the health hazards being endured by inmates and prison officers. He believes the conditions could affect the public given prison officers have families with whom they interact every day and inmates go to court, a public place.

Drawing on his observations and information gathered from his time in jail, Mr Farquharson questioned how the Bahamas can celebrate independence “knowing that these conditions are what we impose on innocent people waiting to be acquitted and on the prison officers who have done nothing wrong at all.”

“More than 20 years ago, the chief justice indicated that the conditions at the prison were inhumane and were a disgrace to the country. This is the former chief justice of the Bahamas, Sir Burton Hall, who in several of his judgments, referred to the fact that the prison conditions were intolerable and had to be improved.”

“But since the time that he made those remarks, conditions in the prison have worsened and the number of prisoners in prison have almost doubled,” he added.

The lawyer claimed there were a number of cracks in the walls, up to 11 persons were sharing a single cell in the maximum security section with no beds and that the food for the inmates at the prison were prepared next to garbage bins.

The lawyer also recalled the presence of faeces in the maximum security section which had attracted roaches, rats and pigeons.

Prison Superintendent Patrick Wright could not be reached yesterday for comment about these concerns.

“Everybody is aware of that but what people don’t know – and they talk about slopping out in the prison – what they don’t realise is that once those buckets have been filled with urine and faeces in the cells, they have to be manually taken by prisoners out into a court yard where they are poured down a hole,” the lawyer said.

“Those buckets of waste, every morning, are poured down a hole by prisoners bare-handed, with no protection whatsoever, immediately next to a dormitory. That process goes on for three or four hours it takes to pour all of that mess down in holes in the morning.”

In May, nearly half of the prison officers at Fox Hill did not report for duty to demand action from the government over the unsanitary state of the prison and the resulting health implications. They demanded that the prison be closed down so that a massive clean-up could be done as a matter of priority. They have since started the cleaning process themselves.

Last month, Justice Carolita Bethell received a letter from prison authorities describing the conditions that two men convicted of attempted armed robbery and attempted murder of a senior police officer had to endure while on remand, such as not having beds.

The judge, in the sentencing of Maurice Armbrister and Excel Josey, said that it was “unacceptable in a civilised society” that the same prison conditions complained of in 1999 “endures today.”

Justice Bethell also echoed the sentiments of past judges that “most people will find it distressing and degrading if they spent a day in these conditions that these men endure. I echo this because these young men will one day re-enter society. Hopefully they will be rehabilitated and reformed and retake their place as better human beings,” she said at the time.

On Friday, Mr Farquharson asked: “How can we as Bahamians, celebrate independence knowing that these conditions are what we impose on innocent people waiting to be acquitted and on the prison officers who have done nothing wrong at all or of whom it is suggested they have not done anything wrong? Can that possibly be correct?”

“The government has just spent something approaching $300 million on boats for the Defence Force, one of which,” he claimed, “already had four failures since it’s been received and will shortly be laid up in the harbour like all the rest of the Defence Force boats.”

“I believe that the government would be wise to find a similar sum of money to improve the existing prison and to build a new prison,” the lawyer said.

Days before his arrest, Mr Farquharson told The Tribune he was “terrified” of going to jail, but added that he intended to take a stand on principle by not paying the fine ordered by the court.

After his release, he had no complaints about his own treatment at the prison, but said the experience had been “extremely useful”. “I got to see first hand what my client complained of on so many occasions and what the prison officers endure working in that place,” he added.

His 14-day sentence was an alternative punishment to the $2,000 fine for his behaviour during last year’s high-profile trial into the murder of Marco Archer during which his client, Kofhe Goodman, was convicted and eventually sentenced to death.

Mr Farquharson is contesting the contempt ruling against him.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 4 years, 10 months ago

What is Fred Mitchell doing talking about how uncomfortable he is? Absolutely Shameless. Build a new prison. WITH PROPER PLANNING AND VISION FOR THE NEEDS OF THE POPULATION FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS AT LEAST.

these men will one day renter society. Will they be angrier, more resentful and disease filled when they do?

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 10 months ago

Farky probably felt right at home with the other faggots at HMP........ only Freddy was missing

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Purcell 4 years, 10 months ago

First time in his sorry life this asshole was where he should have been since birth for two weeks. He is an incompetent jerk who if hired by desperate people will make them end up at the gallows for shoplifting.

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sansoucireader 4 years, 10 months ago

"A country of 700 islands, rocks and cays". Why not develop a Prison Island? Why is HMS Prison even located in what is now a residential area of eastern New Providence? Move the entire complex to another island. Build some dorms for staff, who will be based there for six months. The post can come with extra salary as an incentive. So much can be done with this idea. Think Bahamas!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 10 months ago

Yep an Alcatraz in Paradise............ complete with a ring of tiger, lemon and great white sharks

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Purcell 4 years, 10 months ago

The Haitians who crash there could stay.

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

That is a disgusting idea. All you would be doing is sweeping the problem under the rug. Maybe they should have crucified Jesus on an island too, and then nobody would know about the price he paid either.

TheMadHatter

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

yes - but that same overcrowding is what is a big factor in the crime. TOO many people, and not enough jobs or opportunities. think about paradise Island. What would it be like if, say, 90,000 people lived there? People need to stop breeding like rabbits and expecting to live like humans.

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The_Oracle 4 years, 10 months ago

The Chinese should have built a prison for us instead of a stadium! The Prison is used 365 days a year, the Stadium a fraction of that. Built to house 400? Currently holding thousands. do we still think we are capable of self Governance? The elected do not pay their power bills, their Property Taxes, and probably a host of other costs that the ordinary citizen must pay, and now we hear that they selectively turn some peoples power off for non payment, but allow others to ride for free. What a disgrace.

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

God is punishing the Bahamas every single day for this disgrace that we are imposing on our supposed brothers.

Strange that the Church does not speak out in defense of these children of God? I guess they can't put nothin in the plate while they in jail, so they don't count.

TheMadHatter

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henny 4 years, 10 months ago

God is not punishing the Bahamas...Bahamians are punishing the Bahamas.

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

No - you are wrong. God is punishing us for treating HIS CHILDREN (some of whom happen to be in prison) like animals. People seem to think that when people go into prison they void their child of God birth certificate.

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Revolutionary 4 years, 10 months ago

Bahamians, Our country is sick with corruption. The blame climbs up the ladder from person to minister to prime minister, but to find the true culprit, you need only look in a mirror. We know what is happening, yet we do nothing. Some feel they are alone, they have none to face this government with them. Most are scared - scared that if they raise their voice, they will be detained; political power will be exerted on them. If you are fine with what you see around you, what you see happening to this country, stay home the 26th. But, if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, I ask that you join us on July 26th outside of Parliament for a call for action, for accountability and for justice. Every union, every government employee, every unheard voter, every Bahamian: Your cries have been neglected long enough, let your voice be heard!

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VISA 4 years, 10 months ago

The rich keep getting wealthier. Observer the difference between rich and wealth because thats where they are headed. I remember when I was in high school and HMP was on Inside Edition as one of the worst prisons in the world. Some people in politics pullin politricks and we sit back and allow it. The pedestal they sit/stand upon we've definitely assisted in creating. Honestly. I can honestly say that Sir Ping ensured our country thrived and we always ate. Smh

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Observer 4 years, 10 months ago

The conditions, reportedly, are degrading, 'de-humanizing'. But why the emphasis on what was discovered by a lawless advocate? Just a few years ago, a contingent of gospel ministers reported on the physical conditions of Her Majesty's lock-up. So what's changed since then? Over-crowding? Sanitation? Moral? What.............? Just don't check-in; that's the real solution for any individual.

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