The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)
By Rashad Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
STAFF of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services confiscated 502 cell phones during the 2018-2019 fiscal period, an increase of 12 percent compared with the previous period when 449 phones were collected, National Security Minister Marvin Dames revealed yesterday.
He credited increased staff vigilance and searches for the lack of prison escapes in the past year as well.
Mr Dames spoke about the persistent problems at the BDCS and said there are plans to address a bed shortage and overcrowding at the facility.
“The incessant complaints from officers, inmates, the general public and human rights groups, alike, about the decades-long problem of overcrowding and the practice of slopping in the Maximum Security Unit have not fallen on deaf ears with this Hubert Minnis led government and this minister of national security,” he told the House of Assembly.
“Maximum Security was built in 1952 to accommodate a maximum of 432 inmates but the current population stands at 894,” he said. “As a measure to reduce the level of overcrowding within the facility, BDOCS will continue its work with the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, Correctional Service Canada and other global partners to prepare for a parole system as a measure to reduce the level of overcrowding within the facility. We cannot effectively address rehabilitation without first correcting the problem of overcrowding. I am not suggesting that parole implementation is a panacea for the countless years of previous administrations not addressing the problems in Maximum Security. The problems that exist will not be fixed overnight but this initiative demonstrates that we remain ‘The People’s Government’ and are committed to criminal justice reform and to improving the physical environment at BDOCS for those employed there and those that are incarcerated.
“To address the shortage of beds, $365,000 is allocated for the manufacturing of 300 beds by inmates during this fiscal period. This manufacturing by inmates is two-fold whereby, it will provide the customisation for the beds to be 71 made in the appropriate size to adequately outfit cells; and it will also provide inmates with the opportunity for practical application of their technical skills.”