THE government has appointed a Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee whose task will be to propose a policy framework for a parole system and interventions for the seamless reintegration of past offenders into Bahamian society.
The committee is chaired by Paul Farquharson, former Bahamian commissioner of police and Bahamas high commissioner to London. Retired Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Reverend Patrick Paul, a past president of the Bahamas Christian Council, have also been named to the Steering Committee.
The committee is part of the government’s overarching strategy to address the challenges of crime in the Bahamas through the introduction of the Citizens Security and Justice Programme, which was launched Monday at the British Colonial Hilton.
The committee has been given a six-month mandate to report to National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage.
“The importance of this parole policy framework cannot be understated because more and more, we are recognising that prisons are exacerbating criminal behaviour, not curbing it,” Dr Nottage said.
“We know that 95 per cent of the current inmates at the Department of Corrections will rejoin our communities across the Bahamas over the next ten years (and) so it is not a matter of whether these inmates will return to Bahamian society. The real question is how will they return to Bahamian society.”
Dr Nottage said a more modern and progressive correctional system – one that is not simply concerned with holding prisoners or managing them, but focused on the full development of their potential as citizens – is the answer to the aforementioned question.
“Rehabilitation starts at the moment of arrest and does not end upon release,” Dr Nottage continued. “So we must also find innovative and effective ways to continue to engage offenders after they have left the prison walls.
“This will mean partnering with, and supporting community organisations that are already in the trenches, bridging the gap between release and reintegration. This is just one of the challenges we are endeavouring to address. The task at hand weighs on all of us and the Bahamian people want results,” Dr Nottage added.
He added: “The Citizen Security and Justice Programme for which a loan of $20m from the Inter-American development Bank has been approved, represents the single-largest investment in a co-ordinated and comprehensive policy to address crime.”