Categorized | National News

Prison Overcrowding A Regional Problem

Prison overcrowding is not a problem unique to The Bahamas but one that is common to prisons throughout the world, according to a prison expert.

During the opening ceremony for two regional prison conferences yesterday – the sixth annual Association Of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prison Services (ACHCPS) and first annual Caribbean Association of Corrections (CAC) – ACHCPS President, John Rougier highlighted that problem of overcrowding and said it must be dealt with on a regional level.

Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage, the event’s keynote speaker, agreed.

“The evidence is clear that when prisons are used as the sanction of first resort for hardened, dangerous, violent offenders [rather than] the place of last resort for petty minor offenders society tends to be safer and remediation among wrong-doers seems more assured,” he said.

“Indeed the evidence is clear for dangerous criminals that punishment works mostly when punishment is swift, sure and severe. For petty offenders on the other hand, treatment and rehabilitation seem to offer the best prospects and not incarceration. I would suggest that the purpose of incarceration is to protect society and expose the convicted offender to a regime of attitudes, programmes and behaviors that would reduce the chance of him reoffending once released. If we accept that then we may have to examine the extent to which people remanded for minor non-violent crimes help to bloat our prison population.”

Dr. Nottage then suggested that there needs to be evidence-led data to guide policies with respect to incarceration.

“And, the evidence seems clear that whether convicted or simply charged, prisons should be reserved almost exclusively for five categories of persons: violent, dangerous offenders; drugs, arms and human traffickers; multiple recidivists; child molesters and corruption offenders,” he said.

“People charged or convicted of non-violent, petty crimes should, as far as possible, be consigned to prison only as a measure of last resort.”

Dr. Nottage said the United States sees the prison mostly as first resort and Canada sees it as a place of last resort.

The U.S. has an incarceration rate of nearly 700 per 100,000 population while Canada has an incarceration rate of 107 per 100,000 population, according to the minister.

He said in England, they have 148 people incarcerated to every 100,000 people, Japan has 62 and India only 30.

“With respect to the importation of contrabands, it is well-known that illicit drugs and cellular telephones are the contraband items of choice in prisons worldwide,” he said.

“These twin evils continue to wreak havoc on prison administrations because of the polluting and contaminating influence on institutional law and order and public safety generally. The incorporation of various technological devices to stem the stream of contraband smuggling has been met with varying degrees of success. I am advised that this is so largely because most of our penal institutions are saddled with a relatively small band of highly organised rogue officers who use trafficking as a part time occupation.”

“What I am suggesting is that in order to reduce the scourge of contraband common to all of our institutions we must no longer simply try to identify those who are corrupt. We must find ways to incentivise officers who are otherwise law-abiding, but indifferent and silent in the face of wrongdoing. And so, members of the ACHCPS and the CAC must find new ways not just to resist and oppose complicity and corruption in corrections. Indeed, it is your duty to expose it.”

The national security minister also said the emergence of gangs within respective corrections and prison systems poses a problem on a regional level.

“Given the poisonous, insidious impact of gangs within our penal system, no effort should be spared to eradicate them by all lawful means possible,” Dr. Nottage said.

“In the case of The Bahamas, I am advised that organised gangs within our prison system are a relatively new phenomenon. Not only do gangs spur violence, they are often central to ‘hits’ being ordered on law-abiding witnesses and ordinary citizens. I note from your programme that one of your sessions will examine the role of gangs within prisons. It is my hope that as a result of your deliberations, you may help to formulate new ideas and policies on how we may best deal with this vexing problem.”

Several regional correctional leaders from countries such as Jamaica, Bermuda, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago among others will be in town over the next few days discussing a myriad of issues including prison health, products and services, 21st century prisons among other things.

The conferences end on Saturday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Watch JCN Channel 14 Shows

Jcn Channel 14

Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations!

Join Us on Facebook