Former National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
CABINET has approved recommendations from the Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee concerning rehabilitation of prisoners, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage said yesterday.
The recommendations, submitted to Dr Nottage last September, have not been disclosed to the public.
Outside the House of Assembly yesterday, Dr Nottage said: “The recommendations from the parole committee (have) been approved by the Cabinet and it has given me the authority to appoint an implementation committee which will now look at what steps needs to be taken to introduce probation into the system.
“In itself that means the determination that the government has made as part of its fight against crime is to put emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders generally. A couple years ago we passed the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill to allow us to reduce the time required for expunging records. This is another step in that process.”
Next, Dr Nottage said he will “formally appoint the new committee and give them a deadline by which to produce the legislation, some of which they’ve already given to us and set up the system. Our goal is to try to reform young men so we can reduce the rate of recidivism and violent crime”.
The implementation process should take a few months, Dr Nottage said, given that it will involve “the hiring of new people for rehabilitation and training.”
“It’ll be months but we have a commitment to it,” he said.
The Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee was chaired by Paul Farquharson, the former 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, were also named to the Steering Committee.
“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 last year.
“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. Rehabilitation starts at the moment of arrest and does not end upon release. So we must also find innovative and effective ways to continue to engage offenders after they have left the prison walls.”