Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin.
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE manufacturing of vehicle licence plates by inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS) is likely to begin by the first week in May, Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin announced yesterday.
Several inmates at the Fox Hill Road facility have already been identified as suitable candidates to participate and be paid for participating in the programme, according to officials, with 15 to 20 inmates expected to man the operation in its initial stages.
Particulars such as the wage scale for inmates, as well as policies to govern the operation, are still being discussed by government officials, according to BDCS Commissioner Patrick Wright.
Additionally, Mrs Hanna Martin said the Fox Hill Road compound does not yet have all of the necessary equipment to start the manufacturing process, and as such, US company John R Wald Inc, which has 92 years experience in the business, will continue to produce plates “on a temporary basis” until such time as the BDCS can transition into being able to manage “full production” of the plates.
The decision to allow inmates to manufacture vehicle licence plates, similar to the US prison system, is a key element of the government’s strategy to equip inmates with marketable skills during their sentences, thus improving their prospects for obtaining a job or starting their own businesses when they are released back into society.
Yesterday, Mrs Hanna Martin, supported by Road Traffic Department (RTD) Controller Ross Smith and National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, moved to assure observers that the BCDS “is about as secure as it gets,” and that it will have “added security features to make it more secure.”
She also lauded yesterday’s announcement as a step in the right direction for the RTD.
“We are a department that was antiquated, that had vulnerabilities, that has been controversial. It is also one of the chief revenue earners for the Public Treasury and these (steps) are building the integrity of the system, interfacing with other agencies, so it’s cutting off avenues that may have previously existed for irregularities,” she said. “So this is a critical second step of the modernisation of the Road Traffic Department.
“Out of this we expect that we will no longer have shortages and other unusual occurrences with licence plates, and this will be very helpful. Because regular licence plates are sometimes attached to strange things and horrible things in our country, and also car theft, etc.”
She added: “These tightened security systems, the integrated electronic nature of it and the interfacing, will make the RTD secure in a way that is totally unprecedented and takes our people forward.”
Mrs Hanna Martin also highlighted the programme’s significance with regards to reducing inmate recidivism, something she said also compliments the government’s plans to introduce a parole system.
“A lot of people don’t understand why the language being used towards offenders is being used, because we tend to have a sort of retributive type of mentality towards offenders, which is natural I think,” she said. “But what we’ve learned though, that if you bring someone into an environment like this, and you don’t make efforts to turn that person around ... and they come in here and they go back worse, you are actually unleashing on our people, your neighbours, communities, someone that is a menace.”