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Bill tabled to reform prison

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 03, 2013

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The proposed Correctional Services Bill seeks to “tighten up” on inmates’ privileges at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) and ensure they are engaged in the most modern methods of rehabilitation to ready them for reintegration into society upon release.

The bill, tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday, would provide for new offenses for inmates.

The new legislation would repeal the 1943 Prisons Act and offer more comprehensive and modernized legislation that would be more in line with international standards.

The bill would result in HMP being renamed The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.

The bill provides for a commissioner, deputy and assistant commissioner to be appointed by the prime minister to manage the facility.

The legislation would provide the framework for a Correctional Services Review Board to act as the “watchdog” of the department.

The review board would replace the current Visiting Committee, and would be empowered to establish and implement regulations with the approval of the minister of national security.

The review board would have the authority to permit an inmate, who has completed at least one third of his or her sentence, day release to participate in a church service or program; receive training at an accredited institution approved by the commissioner and/or engage in work.

Inmates discharged, removed or on day release for any purpose would be electronically monitored temporarily.

Inmates on the Day Release Work Program, where earnings are deposited into a bank account, would be provided quarterly financial statements under the new legislation.

National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage said all inmates would be assessed by a new Classification Board upon entry to the correctional facility to determine their needs and how they could benefit from development programs.

He said the commissioner may establish separate programs for untried inmates.

The minister said the commissioner may also establish a Training Advisory Board, which would be responsible for identifying staffing needs and development, including international training, and examining rank and promotion exercises.

The minister would still be required to provide an annual progress and finance report on the facility, something currently fulfilled in the annual prison report.

“The Prisons Act is 70 years old,” Nottage said in the House of Assembly.

“While many of the provisions of the existing legislation have been retained, my government believes this new Correctional Services Bill is well equipped to bring the prison up to date with the realities of today, while still penalizing offenders of the law.”

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