By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe said an important statutory board that should review matters related to the protection of inmates of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services failed to do its job because the department under Commissioner Charles Murphy refused to cooperate.
He also said the prison does not have a coherent COVID-19 mitigation strategy, having failed to budget for it.
Commissioner Murphy is still on administrative leave. He was sent on leave in September so officials could investigate the case of Prescott Smith, a man who was being kept at the prison in a possible breach of a Supreme Court order.
Through his lawyer, Commissioner Murphy has denied any wrongdoing. Commissioner Murphy’s lawyer, Romona Farquharson Seymour, has accused Mr Munroe of bias in the matter because his firm represented acting Commissioner Doan Cleare and Deputy Commissioner Bernadette Murray in a lawsuit that seeks to quash Commissioner Murphy’s appointment.
“There seems to be some controversy over the commissioner being sent on administrative leave by the permanent secretary,” Mr Munroe said at a press conference yesterday, “but clearly one reads the Correctional Services Act and one would find that a correctional institute must be ran in a particular way, particularly it must have a deputy director, it must have an assistant director.
“There is a Correctional Service Board that carries out statutory functions for review and protection of inmates. I met with that board who couldn’t report to me as statutorily required because they received no cooperation from the current substantive commissioner of corrections. That is an important body and its function will be even more important when one looks at the investigation into the inmate that was found unresponsive and pronounced dead.”
Mikhail Miller, 29, was found dead in his cell on Monday with apparent injuries. No details about his death have been released to the public. Mr Munroe has said an autopsy is needed to determine the inmate’s cause of death.
“The Correctional Services Board has contacted the acting commissioner and I expect they will be speaking shortly so that that board can do its job and function in reviewing the state of the prison and the state of inmate relations in the prison and any complaints from inmates,” Mr Munroe said yesterday.
He added: “We also met the correctional institution in a state where it was not being disinfected, sanitised daily although the doctor was of the view it should be and there was no coherent COVID mitigation strategy. Such was the strategy that you had quarantined in a six-foot by nine-foot cell four persons (who) were placed without any of them having been tested even with a rapid antigen test.
“Since the two deputy commissioners had been returned to the correctional institution, the doctor at my direction when I visited in concert with the acting commissioner, has produced a COVID mitigation plan that is at the rate of costing about $19,000 per month which, because it wasn’t engaged by the previous commissioner, is un-budgeted and the government will be asked to provide for that. It would be an unmitigated disaster if we were to have a COVID outbreak in a correctional institution where men are confined together and women in small, closed spaces.”
Mrs Farquharson Seymour has defended Commissioner Murphy’s handling of COVID-19 in the prison, saying last month that from March 2020 to August 2021 fewer than five inmates had been hospitalised for the virus.
“That is remarkable,” she said.