Prison chief praises ‘overdue’ reforms
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Oct 12, 2013
The Correctional Services Bill that was debated in the House of Assembly on Wednesday is “long overdue”, Acting Prison Superintendent Patrick Wright told The Nassau Guardian.
Wright said when the legislation is passed it will give prison officers a clear cut career path; give management a more hands-on approach to dealing with problems and create more rehabilitative programs for inmates.
“It’s overdue, far overdue and successive governments have tried their best to get to this point,” Wright said during a recent interview.
The bill would repeal the 70-year-old Prison Act and transform the focus of Her Majesty’s Prisons from incarceration to rehabilitation, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said on Wednesday as he led the debate on the legislation in the House of Assembly.
The new bill would allow remanded inmates to be exposed to training, education or work opportunities.
The new bill would also ensure that inmates are subject to periodic drug tests and psychiatric evaluations when necessary.
Wright also praised Nottage for his pledge to make the prison’s overcrowded maximum security unit more livable.
“Maximum security was built probably 60 years ago. It doesn’t have toilets in the cells, proper lighting,” Wright said. “It was built in a time when those things were barely coming on stream. Since I have come to office, [Nottage] has been a man of his word. He told me that before Christmas he would get this bill before Parliament and his word came true.”
Wright said some preliminary plumbing work has begun in the unit and added that the prison is just waiting on the toilets to arrive.
In addition to infrastructure and space challenges, the government also has problems with inmates’ access to drugs, cell phones and other contraband while incarcerated.
Wright said the prison’s management does not know exactly how the drugs and cell phones are smuggled in, but said it is a problem with correctional institutions around the world.
“We just came from the largest prison in the United States. . .and they have the same problems with all the technology. It’s almost the life of prisons that those things get in,” Wright said. “It’s sad that it happens but both officers and visitors fulfill that role in bringing those items into the prison.”
Once the Correctional Services Bill is passed, the name of Her Majesty’s Prisons will be changed to The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.