Smoking To Be Eliminated At Prison
by Macushla Pinder
Nassau, The Bahamas
Prison inmates who smoke will soon be forced to kick the habit, saving taxpayers a “considerable” amount of money.
Once passed, the Corrections Services Bill will eliminate smoking at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP), soon to be renamed The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Wrapping up debate on the proposed legislation in the House of Assembly yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged that while such a change may present some initial concerns for some inmates, over time, it will aid in saving more lives and promoting better health.
“Provisions will be put in place to ensure that those inmates who may be addicted to smoking are provided with every measure to assist them to quit, as there is clear evidence that smoking and second hand smoke are injurious to one’s health,” he said.
“So, insofar as people who are confined at Her Majesty’s Prisons, they are not going to be allowed to smoke and so the tradition of being able to trade cigarettes or get cigarettes will be eliminated because the cost to the taxpayer increases considerably.”
Mr. Christie said in the long term, inmates would be better prepared to re-enter society as productive citizens, thereby reducing the prison’s recidivism rate.
At last count, there were more than 1,500 Bahamians imprisoned at HMP, twice as many as the Fox Hill compound is designed to hold at capacity.
According to National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage, there are 800 inmates in the prison’s Maximum Security wing.
Of that figure, 92 people are awaiting trial for murder, 200 inmates are under the age of 17, 44 of whom are 16-years-old.
Commenting the issue of persons on bail, Mr. Christie acknowledged that it is a matter of urgency that these people be tried more quickly.
“We need to prevent the haemorrhaging. We need to prevent these people from being out on bail, so we need to have better trials, a more effective disposition of justice,” he said.
“At the same time, I think it is clearly understood that…our won children are going into those facilities….We have an obligation to recognise that we must constantly work at ensuring that the punishment matches the crime. But in the process, there must be a corresponding effort on a sustained basis to expose these young men in particular to the conditions that ought to pertain in our country, in their lives. We have to condition them to somehow understand that they made a mistake, but they can recover from that mistake and education, training and exposure helps that.”
Government officials stress that the proposed legislation reflect the realities of a modern day correctional facility.
This includes the composition of prison officers.
Once passed, the head of the prison will be recognised as the commissioner of corrections.
The bill was left in committee stage.
October 17, 2013
The Bahama Journal