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Studies Into Life At Department Of Correctional Services Revealed

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

THE findings of various research studies carried out on the elements of life at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services were yesterday presented and detailed during a one day symposium hosted at the University of the Bahamas.

Researchers, guided by the principles established by a 2016 Inter-American Development (IDB) study of 350 inmates, examined a range of factors stemming from prisoner psyche, conditions at the BDCS and the country's legal system.

The initial IDB study was carried out through the Probation and Parole Steering Committee.

UB Director of Institutional Straightening and Accreditation William Fielding called the symposium "an ideal step" for the developing university which continues to expand its reach into the social fibre of the Bahamas.

Symposium

Applauding the research on display Wednesday, Mr Fielding said the one day symposium, at its core, aimed to lend to the extensive debate surrounding the life, incarceration and expected rehabilitation of Bahamians citizens that run afoul of the law.

"During the past year, we have had a team of faculty looking at different elements regarding life in prison; whether it is prison health, use of illegal drugs in prison and even the dynamics of the prison's economy," Mr Fielding said.

"As we look to further research here at the university, these sorts of projects will have to continue because they not only help us improve, but it lends to the development of the overall country.

"Like most, if not all, universities aim to do," he added.

Symposium topics ranged from a spatial analysis of prisoners' prior residence and schools, where researchers assessed the spatial patterns of where current prisoners from New Providence resided and attended school prior to their imprisonment and how patterns formed are related to the socioeconomic characteristics of these neighbourhoods and perceptions of neighbourhood residents about the social capital and safety of these areas; to the family lives of inmates, which explored the expectations of inmates when being reintegrated into society and the effect their incarceration had on family and friends.

Other presentations included: "Who is the Murderer?" by noted scholar Nicolette Bethel, in which she analysed the 2015 murder rate and delved into who committed these crimes and under what circumstances were these crimes committed.

Data from the IDB survey revealed the majority of convicted murderers are young men with an incomplete high school education; are under the influence of drugs or alcohol; are armed with guns or knives and find themselves in high-stress situations such as interpersonal conflicts or criminal activity.

The presentation looked to illustrate that contrary to this received wisdom, many of those that perpetrated violent crimes were no different from those refraining from lives of crime.

Dr Bethel's report suggested that many of those incarcerated share many of the same family and community backgrounds as other residents, are almost all working at the time of their crime and are more likely than other prisoners to have been satisfied with their employment and economic situations.

Additionally, the data indicated that homicides tend not to be premeditated, but occur as by-products of tense circumstances.

Earlier this year, the former Christie administration approved recommendations from the Parole and Re-entry Steering Committee concerning rehabilitation of prisoners.

However, the recommendations which were submitted to former National Security Minister Bernard Nottage last September, were never made public.

The IDB 2016 survey report also has not been made public.

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