CORRECTIONS Commissioner Charles Murphy has denied that inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services are treated unfairly and inhumanely.
His statement on Friday came in response to allegations of mistreatment of inmates which spread on social media.
This also comes after a 2020 human rights report by the United States State Department noted “overcrowding, poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation, poor ventilation and inadequate medical care” at the Fox Hill site.
“I categorically deny the claim that inmates are treated unfairly and inhumanely while incarcerated at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services,” Commissioner Murphy’s statement noted. “Additionally, I wish to advise the general public that inmates are allowed three meals per day, daily exercise and showers in accordance with the Human Rights Convention, standard minimum treatment of offenders and the Correctional Service Act 2014.
“Further, the southern wing of the Maximum Security Housing Unit has just been recently renovated as part of our improvement project. This area is designated as a no smoking zone to which all inmates placed in that housing unit are aware.
“It was brought to my attention that inmates are smoking in the unit which created a problem for inmates who do not smoke. Inmates were also found damaging the walls and cell doors in the newly renovated unit with the cigarettes. They have been warned to discontinue this practice many times to no avail. Therefore, administration took the position to discontinue the issuance of cigarettes to preserve health and safety of all inmates and to protect the infrastructure within Maximum Security and the interest of the general public at large.”
Earlier this month, The Tribune reported that the US State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices highlighted poor prison conditions and the mistreatment of migrants in The Bahamas, revealing in one instance of a prisoner being beaten and requiring surgery.
The 2020 report, released in March, says conditions at BDCS last year were harsh. Designed to accommodate 1,000 prisoners, the correctional facility held 1,617 inmates as of December 2020, according to the report.
Inadequate access to clean drinking water remained an issue in the men’s maximum security block, remand and the women’s block and the report notes that up to six men are contained in six-by-ten feet maximum-security cells without mattresses, running water or toilet facilities.
“Inmates removed human waste by bucket. Prisoners complained of the lack of beds and bedding. Some inmates developed bedsores from lying on the bare ground. Sanitation was a general problem, with cells infested with rats, maggots, and insects. Ventilation was also a problem, and some inmates complained of mould and mildew. The government claimed to provide prisoners in maximum-security areas access to toilets and showers one hour a day. The women’s facilities were generally more comfortable, with dormitory-style quarters and adequate bathrooms,” the report says.
“The availability of clearly labeled, prescribed pharmaceuticals and access to physician care was sporadic. Prisoners consistently complained that prison authorities did not take their health concerns seriously. Sick male inmates and male inmates with disabilities had inadequate access to the medical centre. One inmate, who requested assistance for a series of medical complications, died at BDCS in October. The inmate’s family had been permitted to provide him with nutritional supplements and healthy meals until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the prison to restrict visitors. Absent outside support and adequate prison care, the inmate died in his cell.
“In February a correctional officer beat a prisoner, causing a leg injury that required surgery. The government stated it charged the officer with use of unnecessary force and referred the matter to a disciplinary tribunal at the Department of Correctional Services,” the report states.
However, the report notes that the government has made some improvement to prison conditions.
It says: “The government took steps to improve prison conditions, including by introducing biodegradable bags for proper waste disposal, constructing 100 bunk beds, and installing flooring, air conditioning, and masonry in parts of the maximum-security area. In addition inmates noted repairs to water flow during the year and a reopened prison library. At the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, the government replaced floor tiles in all dormitories.”
Among the claims about the prison, which circulated online last week, this message was posted on social media: “. . .Inmates want Commissioner Murphy to go. He just oppressing us all over. He (banned) us from having Aqua Pure water, visitation, free world food and now he (trying to ban) smoking. All type of pressure behind here.”