Prison officers strip searched

The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)

The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)


Tribune Chief Reporter


CORRECTIONAL officers are protesting a “demoralising” process that sees officers strip searched before the start of their shift.

Correctional Officers Staff Association Chairman Ryan Wilson said officers are seeking an amendment to the Corrections Act 2014 in hopes of streamlining the vague mandatory search requirement, which he said “dangles carelessly for misinterpretation”.

The problematic searches are just the latest in a litany of longstanding grievances which have gone unresolved by successive administrations, according to Mr Wilson, who pledged that officers intend to hold National Security Minister Marvin Dames’ feet to the fire over promises he made last year.

“The most recent and demoralising disservice being imposed upon officers are searches conducted by senior staff where subordinate staff are required to remove clothing upon reporting for their tour of duty,” a press statement from the association said. 

“Officers are aware that we are subject to a search but to our disadvantage, the Corrections Act 2014 lacks clarity on the extent to which a search can be conducted.”

It continued: “We should be treated according to the accepted standard adhered to by Correctional Departments the world over. The accepted standard speaks to steps that should be taken, including obtaining warrants and legal representatives being present due to the nature of a search being conducted on an officer. 

“These steps exist to retain the dignity of the officer who by the way, is not a ward of the state and not being detained at the facility on a warrant. Also, such standard procedures seek to protect the officer’s constitutional right to an attorney upon being suspected of being in possession of a prohibited article.”

Mr Wilson stressed the critical need for authorities to show “just cause” for their actions.

Over the past few years, several correctional officers have been arrested and charged in connection with smuggling drugs and contraband into the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services. For instance last October, one former correctional officer was sentenced to three months in prison after admitting to trying to smuggle drugs concealed in his socks into the Fox Hill compound. That same month, another officer was arrested for trying to smuggle a cell phone into the facility. 

And last April, an overnight operation involving more than 200 law enforcement officers searching the BDCS found homemade shanks, cell phones, marijuana and other contraband in inmates’ cells. This came after a video went viral of prisoners, suspected to be from the Fox Hill compound, preparing to roll what appeared to be marijuana joints, while music played in the background.

The Ministry of National Security and BDCS officials have pledged zero tolerance to corruption. 

“At the commencement of my tenure as acting commissioner I met with all rank and file of the department and I enunciated my plans,” Acting BSCS Commissioner Charles Murphy said at a press conference last October. “I also stressed my no tolerance for corruption in any form, shape and fashion. However, there are always those minute portions of the staff who seek to get ahead financially, by carrying out their devious and corrupt practices.

“…Let me stress not only to the staff, to those persons who seek to bring in illegal items in the department, but also the public… we have no tolerance, a zero tolerance (policy) for any type of illegal activities in or around our department,” Mr Murphy had said earlier.

Yesterday Mr Wilson also renewed demands for wage increases and the resolution of outstanding issues, stating members of his association were irate over their treatment, and questioned how the facility could be expected to grow and transition from punitive to correctional when best practices are not followed.

He insisted officers could not afford to see issues like stalled promotions, and excessive delays in confirmation for trainees and officers returning to active duty, continue to languish in 2019.

“(Mr Dames) mentioned 2018 would be our best year ever,” Mr Wilson said in an interview with The Tribune. 

“We want to hold his feet to the fire in ensuring most of those issues are resolved. We in 2019,” he continued, “we don’t need those issues to be dragged along any further. It’s been 12 years now without a salary increase, and we have a myriad of issues unresolved.”

In his statement yesterday, Mr Wilson took issue with the new career path for officers, which, he claims, seeks to disenfranchise correctional officers due to its academic requirements and “stagnated years in a single rank.” He also called for the formal confirmation of acting commissioner and deputy commissioner posts.

“Education not negated,” the statement read, “corrections officers know that experience and tact survives a hostile situation in a housing unit any given day over a degree in criminology. 

“Promotions are still pending for deserving officers and we await salary adjustments that meet correctional standards. A salary increase is long overdue with the ever-increasing cost of living. 

“Civilian staff receive $200 monthly for risk allowance, some of whom rarely have any contact with inmates, yet corrections officers are sidetracked with the excuse that our risk allowance is included in the salary.”

Attempts to reach National Security Minister Marvin Dames for comment yesterday were unsuccessful up to press time.


joeblow 4 years, 8 months ago

If prison officers would stop being the couriers of contraband to prisoners this might not be necessary!


Sickened 4 years, 8 months ago

Exactly! If some of these officers weren't involved in supplying contraband then this wouldn't be an exercise. The innocent officers probably don't mind being searched as it makes sense during these times.


Clamshell 4 years, 8 months ago

Took the words right outta my mouth, Joeblow.


Greentea 4 years, 8 months ago

everyone going into that prison should go through metal detectors and or body scans.


geostorm 4 years, 8 months ago

@Greentea, I agree. I think metal detectors and body scans would be a better method for detecting contraband etc. Only if someone is shown to have something should they be subjected to additional search. That is more than appropriate.


bogart 4 years, 8 months ago

Closer scrutiny is certainly a plus......AND....it must be coupled with lenghty prison times and hard labour for .....those officers betraying the public taxpayers ...victims...victims families....all those wronged....murdered....stolen from...physically harmed...ripped off....tieffing ya tings....TRUST...EXPECTATION.. that PRISON is not..serving its puppose ....


John 4 years, 8 months ago

So what will their morale be after you request a qualified officer to drop his/her drawers and you body search them, just like the prisoners they have custody off? It is a mirror of what is happening in society, where the police stop, search and degrade citizens without reasonable cause. And so the average citizen now despises the police. The problem is 9 of 10 officers will be innocent and yes they will be demoralized. And if it continues they will quit their jobs and then only the rogue officers will be left. Then What? The proper thing is surveillance of the officers and once suspicion is developed, then you target those officers.


TheMadHatter 4 years, 8 months ago

It's good to know that bad things don't only happen to good people. Fox Hill should be shut down, everyone fired, and all prisoners turned loose. A society which treats prisoners the way they are treated there deserves to be a cesspool of crime. God knows that, and acts accordingly.

"...according to Mr Wilson, who pledged that officers intend to hold National Security Minister Marvin Dames’ feet to the fire over promises he made last year."

And how exactly do you plan to do that Mr. Wilson? Ink up ya fingah in 2022 and put the same clowns back in that we just threw out? LOL.


rawbahamian 4 years, 8 months ago

This is what it has come down to by their own volition. The innocent officers know who the guilty officers and if they have any integrity and want the searches to stop then all they have to do is identify the perpatrators or the warden should just deduct 2weeks salary from all officers for every illegal item found. I bet the talking and identifying will start and this practise of contraband will stop !!!


BahamasForBahamians 4 years, 8 months ago

The government would also have their asses handed to them through lawsuits and would possibly have to increase taxes to pay the injured parties for this illegal act.


bogart 4 years, 8 months ago

You have hit a main point where in this 21 x 7 island there is more support friends..family..cronies..for the curruption that goes on and little protections for the innocents...majority Bahamians who may very well know but cannot do, or will leave it alone too much trouble. There needs to be protections for the whistle blowers majority innocent Bahamians and massive punishments for guilty i.where the costs to them will be so high if only to deter wrongdoers. (like the poachers) In the private sector, many wrongdoings happen but are not reported because there are no protections. Many Bahamians may have disputes with banks, insurance companies, any place dealing with money.....gets ripped off....and unless they can afford a lawyer costing thousands of dollars nothing happens....no Financial Ombudsman.....AntiCompetition laws..monopolies...cartels.... ..The system needs to be right sided....otherwise seems the only hope is majority innocents Bahamians..in voting new gubbermints erry 5 years as has been happening.....probably get to da point where Bahamians.say........ no taxation without representation...!!!!.


DDK 4 years, 8 months ago

Agree with the post of Greentea on x-ray scanners. Should be mandatory for all persons passing though entrance.


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 8 months ago

I hope the two prison officers well known for proudly wearing their $30,000+ solid gold Rolex watches were among those strip searched. LMAO


sealice 4 years, 8 months ago

If the honest prison officers (is there such a thing??) would report what their co-workers are doing which i am sure has to be a apart of their mandate... literally do their job..... like the cops if we could just get them to do their jobs properly.....


DEDDIE 4 years, 8 months ago

As a people we don't care if someone constitutional rights is violated. You can not search a person without a search warrant folks. When you see a police on the side of the road going through someone pocket or car, nine times out of ten they are breaking the law.


John 4 years, 8 months ago

So where is the Lyford Cay resident who suppose to be serving time for murder? Somewhere on the beach sipping Crystal?


sheeprunner12 4 years, 8 months ago

Search their boongie holes as well ............. they are the ones providing the illegal drugs, phones etc to the criminals in prison for the right price ........ And then audit their bank accounts and their personal assets ........ Many junior officers surely live like kings on their $25,000 - $40,000 p.a. salary from the Government ............. Just too much corruption at that shithole.


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