Almost one in five prisoners re-offend


WITH the recidivism rate at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services said to be around 17 percent, officials remain committed to rehabilitating prisoners and preventing the further increase of recidivism in the country.

Speaking at the official launch of a "Beyond Our Prisoners" conference yesterday, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said some $17m have already been committed to strengthening crime prevention initiatives beyond the prison walls.

One of these initiatives, he noted, will include the refinement and expansion of the "risk need responsivity" model, which is expected to be completed by the end of December.

According to Mr Dames, this model, developed with the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, supports inmate risk and needs classification.

"Rehabilitation is not a one size fits all experience. The model that is being refined looks at the incentivisation of the prison management structures and identify ways to have inmates take more responsibility for their own rehabilitation," he said.

"It seeks to reward those who are actively and genuinely trying to better themselves so that they can turn their lives around. The developing model seeks to have through the gate provisions so that inmates are already linked to the relevant probation social work, welfare and housing services…as they re-enter their communities."

In addition to this, Mr Dames noted the ministry will implement an improved electronic data management system.

"The implementation of the upgraded electronic data management system will allow the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services to follow the progress of each inmate through their stay at the prison, adjusting their programmes as it needs progress," he said.

He continued: "Today, we complete the first part of the (citizens of security justice) programme to train 400 community leaders in sexual violence prevention, gender-based violence prevention skills, affected parenting skills and skills for effective conflict resolution."

According to Mr Dames, this is just the beginning as more than $1m has been invested to improving Bahamians for non-violent conflict resolution.

He continued: "We are completing the refurbishment works and access negotiation for three community centres and are acquiring three more. These centres are strategically placed throughout the community where indicators have shown that there is a significant need for diversionary intervention."

Youth employment, as noted by Mr Dames, is another area of focus in the ministry's plan to reduce recidivism.

He said: "Through soft skills and technical skills training, the Department of Labour has partnered with the National Training Agency and other educational service providers to implement training programmes designed to prepare some 2,600 young persons for the workforce. Graduates of the prison, under the BTVI training programme, are registered with the department of labour so that they can be assisted with seeking employment upon their release from prison."

In his address, Mr Dames noted that a case management system is also in the works.

These crime prevention initiatives, he suggested, are vital in ensuring that inmates do not return to prison after being released.

"Beyond the prison walls, we continue to collaborate with at least 13 agencies everyday and we work to manage the crime and safety elements within our communities. This is important because we are cognizant of the fact that more affected crime prevention initiatives is one way to reduce prison overpopulation and overcrowding," he said.