Minister of National Security Marvin Dames. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By Khrisna Russell
Deputy Chief Reporter
SIGNIFICANT improvements at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services over the past two years have made conditions at the facility better, National Security Minister Marvin Dames insisted yesterday.
According to the minister, the poor state of BDCS is due to successive administrations not doing enough to maintain it, compounded by an ageing physical structure.
He said upon taking office, the Minnis administration found many buildings on the compound in a state of disrepair, including the administrative offices.
Officials are now working to correct these issues, Mr Dames said, as he outlined various upgrades now in the works.
However, he did not say how long the extensive upgrades would take to complete.
“If you look at photos of the past compared to what’s taking place now, it’s a complete turn around,” the Mt Moriah MP said in response to lingering concerns regarding the state of conditions at the facility. “We are installing air-conditioning in areas of maximum security. We’re cleaning up the cells. We’re cleaning up the hallways and it’s a 360-degree about turn.
“How long will that take us — it’s a very large facility but we’re committed and every fiscal period we are budgeting funds to provide to allow us to continue on our programme of cleaning up the prison. I think too in addition they’ve always been that arm or that department in national security that has been neglected.”
He continued: “We want to ensure that the people who show up to work there each day are working in an environment that is conducive toward good health and toward good performance and so we’re dedicated to that and are working to fix that.”
Mr Dames, pictured right, added that officials were also providing additional tools and equipment for corrections officers to properly do their jobs.
“We want to ensure as well that they have the necessary equipment and tools to protect themselves as they go about the execution of their duties. That was something that would have been tremendously lacking and so we’re providing all of the tools for safety and security of our correctional officers and the requisite transportation that will allow them to safeguard and protect the prison.
All of these things are happening and they’re happening now,
“We are working on bringing in a new squad because they are undermanned as well and understaffed so we had 60 graduate last year. We are going to move to bring in another 60 plus recruits. I think they are conducting those interviews now.
“While we’re doing that, we’re working on our rehabilitation and probation model so we’re taking an holistic approach to correcting all of the deficiencies within that institution itself.
“So I think we’re in a better place today than we would have been when we took office, a far better place,” Mr Dames said.