The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE most significant human rights issues affecting the country last year involved the treatment of persons in detention, according to the US government.
The US State Department’s 2017 Human Rights Report stated foreign male prisoners frequently reported threats and targeting by prison guards, and flagged the claim of a Bahamian-US dual citizen who reported in June that officials at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services placed a bag over his head and beat him with a golf club.
The report did not include any further information on the claim or whether it had been investigated.
Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan released the 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices yesterday, and the Bahamas’ report notes the Minnis administration’s actions against police officers and officials accused of abuse of power.
On prison and detention centre conditions, the report noted overcrowding, poor nutrition and inadequate sanitation contributed to conditions that failed to meet international standards in some areas.
“Inmates reported receiving only two meals per day,” the report read, “and often only one, with a meal sometimes consisting only of bread and tea. Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare to nonexistent. Prisoners also reported infrequent access to drinking water and inability to save potable water due to lack of storage containers for the prisoners.
It continued: “A few cells also lacked running water, and in those cells,, inmates removed human waste by bucket. Sanitation was a general problem, with cells infested with rats, maggots, and insects.
“A University of The Bahamas study reported that in the maximum-security block, which housed 58 percent of the prison population, inmates removed waste matter using buckets.”
It added: “Prison inmates complained about the lack of a full-time dentist and a failure to appoint a staff psychiatrist. Prisoner access to a primary care physician was sporadic.”
The report noted as an improvement, the prison’s acquisition of 20 industrial washers, and the Ministry of National Security reportedly instituting a standardized cleaning programme to improve hygiene conditions in the prison.
The US State Department’s 2017 report read: “The most significant human rights issues included violence by guards against prisoners, harsh conditions in detention facilities, and lengthy trial delays. The government took action in some cases against police officers and other officials accused of abuse of power.”
In its 2016 report, the state department alleged government officials “engaged in corrupt practices with impunity” as a result of inadequate enforcement but did not include any hard evidence or specific examples. That year, the US also returned to the attack on the Bahamas’ government procurement processes, a frequent target in its annual Investment Climate report.
In its 2015 assessment, the state department cited a vulnerable contract procurement process as it conflated the government’s ineffectiveness at implementing corruption laws as the reason officials engage in illegal practices without consequence.
The 2017 report released yesterday does not speak to the government’s procurement process.
A draft bill to standardize procurement was released this month.