The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
TWO retired prison officers are calling on the government to launch an investigation into operations at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Speaking about their experiences as former assistant commissioners, the pair outlined a laundry list of allegations concerning malfeasance, negligence, and total disregard for established protocols, such as accounting and reporting procedures.
The pair also highlighted severe shortfalls in essential equipment and resources that they allege put correctional officers at risk daily, and contributed to the low morale of officers against the backdrop of the severely overcrowded, unsanitary, and outdated facility.
They told The Tribune that their desire for a national spotlight on these issues was sparked by the new administration’s post-election pledge to root out corruption, and invitation to the public to report all instances of wrongdoing.
The Tribune has repeatedly reached out to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS) for an interview in connection with the allegations. An email was received from the office of the commissioner of corrections on May 29, which acknowledged receipt of the request for interview, however an interview was never given.
“We were in the inside looking out, we’re talking about what we know,” said one of the former assistant commissioners. “You hear about rehabilitation in prison, in order for you to rehabilitate me things have to be conducive to where you want things to be at the end of the day. The maximum-security structure needs to go.
“For them to start rehabilitation they need to knock down maximum-security prison and build a prison that holds about 2,000 people. Modern facilities with better security for the staff and then you’re on your way. You can go to Canada, you can go to England and you can go to the United States, when you check those facilities their policy or their act is intertwined to their structure and they achieve that at the end of the day.
“We can’t achieve nothing, I look at it and laugh, we come here and paint this and say we moving,” the retired corrections officer added.
The second retired officer said: “They are putting the cart before the horse, they’re sending these officers abroad but what they learn they can’t come back and use it here, can’t implement it because the facilities are not ready.”
The claims levelled by the former officers mirror anecdotal accounts sent to The Tribune by inmates over the past year, and also appear to fall within the remit of the review undertaken by the Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee.
The committee is part of the government’s overarching strategy to address the challenges of crime in the Bahamas through its Citizens Security and Justice Programme, financed by a $20 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.
The committee submitted its report late last year, and some of its recommendations have already been adopted. However, the report has not yet been released to the public.
The BDCS is on the list of quasi-governmental agencies set to be audited by the auditor general.
Yesterday, Auditor General Terrence Bastian confirmed that his team met with officials last year to plan the scope of the audit, but could not confirm when the audit would be staged.