By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames said yesterday the substantial role of commissioner of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services will be filled at some point in 2019, this as several “transformative” moves are being finalised as the facility moves towards its proposed parole scheme.
Mr Dames also said officials were working to transform the BDCS from a penal facility to a correctional one; a move that will also feature a new commissioner and executive team that will place an emphasis on “rehabilitation and parole integration”.
According to the Mount Moriah MP a tremendous amount of work has already been done with respect to reviewing the proposed Probation Bill, its implementation and the structures and systems that would be needed to have it fully operational at some point in 2019.
“The Bahamas Department of Corrections is going through a transformative period that will certainly change it for the better,” Mr Dames told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of a symposium.
“We are pleased with the direction in which we are taking the Bahamas Department of Corrections and next year will be a very special year for them. We will have a new commissioner, a new executive team in place. That will be a transformative team, a team of individuals who understands the business of rehabilitation and parole integration.”
The Ministry of National Security is expected to close out its two-day parole symposium later today. The forum brought together key stakeholders and personnel in discussion on ways to best implement a parole system in The Bahamas.
The $20 million Inter-American Development Bank’s Citizen Security and Justice Programme is helping to fund the development the proposed system.
Under the Christie administration, a Parole and Re-Entry Steering Committee was established to examine the matter. The recommendations of that committee have not been made public to date.
As part of a 2016 study, which involved 350 inmates, researchers examined a range of factors, including prisoner psyche, conditions at the BDCS and the country’s legal system.
Proponents of the implementation of a parole system have used aspects of this study to aid their calls for an immediate overhaul of the entire system.
However, in an attempt to balance public views on what BDCS presently represents, Mr Dames yesterday asserted that the culture highlighted in discussions on the facility is often void of all the facts.
Mr Dames went on to use Monday’s double homicide as a point of observation, lamenting that there are people in the system that just cannot be helped. The male victim was reportedly a prolific offender, who was shot just months ago in a gang-related incident.
According to Mr Dames, when given the chance to help police solve that matter, the victim offered little to no assistance.
As such, Mr Dames said the country’s reform system features more pragmatic components than are not often discussed, namely the country’s criminal, social and child rearing cultures.
“Well, yeah, when we talk about the system, it is more than just the system; it is all of us,” he said. “Those persons who are responsible for these cowardly acts are our kid, they have a mother and a father, and love ones.”
He later added: “As you know, a number of months ago, we would have signed a contract with BTVI where a number of inmates who are actually going through the BTVI training are about to graduate very shortly.
“We had the Ministry of Labour in the facility, along with businesses from throughout New Providence meeting with inmates and they are looking at (some as) prospects to hire.
“We are moving along that path, but is that the panacea? I think for the mass majority of the inmates it is, but we are talking about that element, that very small element, that continues to believe that they can use a gun to change somebody’s life. That is what we are talking about.
“And we will find them where ever they are. And those are the type of individuals I honestly do not know what you can do to help them. The only place for them is permanently behind bars. It is unfortunate.”
The recidivism rate at the BDCS has long been an issue. In October, acting BDCS Commissioner Charles Murphy said the rate was at an “unacceptable” high.
While he stopped short of giving an exact figure on recidivism at the correctional facility, he pointed to programmes like the BTVI initiative and the Department of Labour’s programme as elements helping to address the rate.
Twenty prison officers were trained in the BDCS’s inaugural parole programme, which was supervised by Canadian correctional service experts earlier this year.