The Department of Correctional Services at Fox Hill. (File photo)
By EARYEL BOWLEG
PRISON officers beating inmates is “unacceptable” and “intolerable,” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Eugene Poitier said yesterday.
His comment came after Ellen Kemp, 51, told The Tribune last week that her son, who is on remand for marijuana possession, was beaten so badly by a prison officer that his leg required surgery.
While giving a keynote address at the opening of a Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) conference yesterday, Mr Poitier said he saw a clip in the news of the incident recently and was certain Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Charles Murphy would handle the matter.
“… I almost cringed when I see these clips of a mother talking about how her son was brutalised within the prison system and it showed the inmate,” he said.
“He had a bandaged foot that was purple and talked about how (he) was punched in the face and was beaten on his leg and how he was told some very disparaging remarks by (the) prison officer. That is not correct and it’s unacceptable ... I’m sure Mr Murphy is going to deal with that officer accordingly.”
Ms Kemp told this newspaper that she visited her son, Jonathan Lightbourne, in hospital last week as his leg needed surgery after the alleged attack, which she reported to the department’s internal affairs section.
She alleged: “He said he had an altercation with a juvenile in a cell who threw (urine) on him and an officer came in and slapped up the juvenile. My son speaks his mind so apparently the officer told another officer to open the cell so he could take my son out and deal with him.
“My son said they threw a bucket of water on him and the officer went in the cell and beat him while two other officers stood out watching. He said he was kicked and stamped and no one did anything. This happened from last week, Wednesday, and no one took him to the doctor until he had to go to remand court where they sent him over to medical and that’s how he got to the hospital. He had to go in surgery (on Tuesday) for his foot. They had to cut the skin from the bottom to drain it because it started to get gangrene.”
Officials took Mr Lightbourne’s statement at the hospital and Mr Murphy revealed previously the matter was being looked into.
According to the permanent secretary, a correctional services approach rather than a penal philosophy mentality is needed at the Fox Hill facility.
He explained: “The penchant for violence lessens when incarcerated persons feel that there is a genuine effort being expected to help them strengthen their vocational competence maintain their family ties, and preserve their human dignity while they serve their sentence.
“…So that means that you treat people like they’re humans. Not because they’re incarnated that means you have a right but that you should think that they’re subservient, they’re below you you have a right to treat them accordingly.”