Country Report on Bahamas Human Rights Practices

In prison abuse on April 2, 2008 at 8:13 am

The US Country Report for the Bahamas for 2007 in respect of its human rights practices in penal institutions was critical that “conditions at Fox Hill Prison, the country’s only prison, remained harsh for many prisoners.

Overcrowding was a major problem in the men’s maximum-security block. Originally built in 1953 to hold 450 inmates, it held approximately 700 of the country’s 1,400 prisoners. The remaining prisoners were held in medium- and minimum-security units that were at intended capacity.

The prison remand area, built to hold 300 prisoners awaiting trial, was insufficient to hold the approximately 600 prisoners awaiting trial, leaving many pretrial detainees confined in cells with convicted prisoners in the maximum-security unit.

Male prisoners in the maximum-security unit were crowded into poorly ventilated cells that generally lacked regular running water and toilets. Prisoners lacked beds, slept on concrete floors, and if not participating in work programs were locked in small cells 23 hours per day, often with human waste.

Maximum-security inmates were allowed outside for exercise four days a week for one hour per day. Inmates complained of inadequate potable water, medical care, and treatment.

There continued to be allegations of abuse by prison guards. Local attorneys and human rights observers asserted that the prison’s internal affairs unit lacked the independence needed to investigate impartially allegations of abuse and misconduct; it conducted no investigations during the year.

In 2006 the unit recommended that one officer be prosecuted for abuse of an inmate, which was pending at year’s end.”

With respect to immigration detainees, the situation was grave at the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center. The facility held “up to 500 detainees (with tent space for an additional 500), and women and men were held separately. Haitians and Jamaicans were the most commonly interdicted migrants.

Children under the age of 14 were held in the women’s dormitory. Many children arriving with both parents were not allowed contact with the father except during weekly visitation. Despite the possibility of being held for months, children did not have access to education.

Detainees complained that non-English speaking migrants were sometimes unable to communicate with guards regarding basic needs and detention center rules. Detainees also continued to complain of abuse by guards. Human rights groups expressed concern that complaint investigations were handled internally without independent review and oversight.”

CURB concurs with such concerns and encourages Caribbean governments to appoint independent civilian groups to oversee the inquiry and review procedures when complaints of abuse of any nature are made in relation to prison remandees, convicts or immigration detainees.

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