By RIEL MAJOR
THE Bahamas Department of Correctional Services held a commencement service yesterday welcoming 54 new trainee correctional officers to the team.
During his remarks National Security Minister Marvin Dames expressed his excitement for the trainees and endorsed their theme “Embracing Change, Transforming Lives...A Hope for New Beginnings.”
Mr Dames said: "I'm truly honoured to share in this special occasion when 54 trainee correctional officers will join The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
"I applaud you for embracing change to assist with the transformation of lives and provide a hope for new beginnings to the offenders that you will oversee. Squad of 2018 when we were preparing to recruit new officers a stringent vetting process was implemented that compromised academic qualifications, a background check, a medical examination and a psychological assessment to ensure that we enlisted the most qualified candidates who would adopt the policies of a correctional institution.
"I am advised that you are the first cohort of trainees to receive instructions in dynamic security as a separate training module."
According to Mr Dames, research reveals that positive staff inmate relationship plays an integral role in the cognitive change process of offenders.
"Therefore, they are looking forward to you developing right relationships with inmates that will inspire them to live their best lives.
"Squad of 2018 as I stated earlier you are joining the organization at a time when the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services is transitioning from penal to a correctional facility to concentrate on maximizing the qualities of inmates within your care," Mr Dames said.
Mr Dames warned the new trainees about the temptations that will come before them and he encouraged them to listen to their conscience and to always do the right thing.
"When you live on an island seven by twenty-one there is a good chance that the next person stepping off the bus in cuffs may be your corner boy who you owe some money to, your (school mate) who beat you up on the last day of school, your family member, your church (member)...what are you going to do?" Mr Dames asked. "When revenge pushes you to cross professional boundaries to violate someone’s rights to humane and just treatment. What are you going to do when your corner boy wants a favour; there has been commentary in some sectors of the community attempting to justify the existence of corruption within the institutions like the prison."
He continued: "Yes it maybe true that the salary of the job does not excite you, there are those who perceive that correction officers are not real law enforcement officers, these persons believe that correction officers are not held in the same highest esteem as other national security officers and therefore they should not be expected to uphold high standards or performance demanded in other areas of the security services. Let me be clear – there is no excuse for corruption."
The minister said when an inmate walks into the gates of the Department of Corrections they become totally dependent on you to fulfill almost all of their needs. That is a tremendous amount of power to put in the hands of persons who have just entered the corridors of mature adulthood. You have been gifted with the opportunity to play a significant role in the life of those you guide and supervise.
"The Correction Department is a close environment many things are hidden from the public scrutiny and the attitude of some in our society could deceive you into thinking that you can function with impunity within these walls. Do not be fooled I am challenging you today to stand up and resist the temptation to turn a blind eye, to abuse in corruption if and when you see it. Resist the offer to dishonestly earn your year’s salary in a month.
He continued: "Plan now how you will respond when you hear who do you think you are and you aren't better than us. Stand tall diligently fight against the forces that seek to quiet your inner conscience, your inner voice.
"You need to remember that when officers become corrupt to the point of supporting the importation of contraband into the correction centre, you are putting you and the whole department staff at risk. The contraband that you support today can become the weapon used against you or other staff members, not tomorrow but today. The money you earned from one wrong sale today maybe held against you and your family for the rest of your life."