#Bahamas, October 7, 2017 – Nassau – Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames told participants at ‘Our Prisoners: A Symposium’ on October 4, 2017, that he believed that the information disseminated at the event would “go a long way in providing good and holistic analysis about offenders, their criminogenic (‘causing or likely to cause criminal behavior’) needs” and the underlying challenges within The Bahamas’ correctional system.
“As I have indicated in my communication on crime (in the House of Assembly) a few weeks ago, my Ministry has reached out to researchers at the University of The Bahamas to explore ways in which your institution can assist in finding more evidence-based strategies to combat crime,” Minister Dames said at the event held at the University of The Bahamas (UB) Performing Arts Centre and facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in conjunction with UB.
“Furthermore, I am moved by the willingness of your institution to assist with evaluating anti-crime programs to determine what impact they are having on crime and public safety indicators,” he added.
Minister Dames said that the emphasis of the discussion that day focused on the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services and the need to facilitate alternatives to imprisonment and conditional release for non-violent offenders. He noted that, over the past four years, the correctional services had been transitioning from a “punitive base to corrections.”
“During this process, the enactment of new legislation to govern the service and changing the name of the institution was achieved,” Minister Dames pointed out. “However, the process fell short of establishing a clear correctional strategy, that will benefit staff and offenders.”
Minister Dames stated that, at that time, The Bahamas ranked third in the region in incarceration rates – 439 per 100,000 in 2016.
“This rate reflects the challenges of crime, punishment and recidivism that exist within the Criminal Justice System in The Bahamas,” he said.
In 2016, he added, Inmate Admissions at the correctional facility were 2,528, with male offenders continuing to remain the larger gender group admitted into the institution, exceeding female offenders by 93% in total inmate admissions.
“Particularly, young males between the ages of 18–25 [who] represent the largest age group at 41%,” Minister Dames said. “These trends suggest that we must engage dialogue relative to Corrections, alternatives to incarceration and their role in the Criminal Justice System of The Bahamas.
“We must define exactly what should be accomplished while offenders are incarcerated. At this point we need to understand what works and whether punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration are impactful within our system.” Minister Dames said that, within that context, the correctional institution faces a myriad of challenges and the need for clear evidence-based practices must now be considered.
“Evidence-based practices, as a part of the criminal justice system in The Bahamas, can mean revolutionizing the Correctional Services and developing much-needed community supervision programs for offenders,” he pointed out. “Moreover, these objectives can only be ascertained through making organizational decisions and directing policy-making initiatives based on measurement, research and evaluation.”
Minister Dames said that a very important step of our government’s crime focus is the rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders.
“Noting that current incarceration and recidivism rates are at unacceptable levels, we understand that recently-released inmates – who are typically males in the prime of their lives – seem to have very few viable options to be successfully rehabilitated and re-integrated into society,” he said. “As a result, Government will be enacting legislation shortly to address the conditional release of offenders into society through a Parole and Probation System for first time non-violent offenders.
“The new process of parole will address rehabilitation, reintegration, re-offending/recidivism and reduce the costs associated with incarceration.”
Minister Dames said the goals of the initiative will also include the following: assisting ex-offenders in functioning in the community without becoming involved in further criminal activity; providing supervision or monitoring; and providing support to inmates enabling them to be reintegrated in the community through a productive and crime free lifestyle.
Minister Dames commended the “committed support” of the IDB, which had demonstrated its assistance by providing funding and other pertinent resources to the project, and looked forward to initiating further collaborative efforts.
“I also commend the faculty and support staff of University of The Bahamas that have committed long, sacrificial hours in the work that will be presented today,” Minister Dames said. We anticipate information revealed in this study will be useful in modernizing and strengthening correctional outcomes for the 21st century.”
Minister Dames gave the full assurances of the government that his Ministry is a willing and committed partner and they were confident that underpinning the discussions at that dissemination exercise was the resolve to formulate data that will “chart the course of response to findings about offenders incarcerated in The Bahamas.”
Press Release: BIS
Photo caption: Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames speaks, on October 4, 2017, at ‘Our Prisoners: A Symposium’, an event held in the University of The Bahamas (UB) Performing Arts Centre and facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in conjunction with UB.
(BIS Photo/Eric Rose)