Prison and detention center conditions failed to meet international standards in some areas, and conditions at the government’s only prison remained harsh due to overcrowding. During the year, however, prison sanitation improved. New correctional services legislation, which entered into force in August, renamed Her Majesty’s Prison “The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services” (DCS); the new law places greater emphasis on rehabilitation of offenders.
Physical Conditions: DCS facilities include the remand center, remand court, maximum-security blocks, medium-security blocks, minimum-security/work release units, and a separate women’s unit. Overcrowding, sanitation, and access to adequate medical care remained problems in the men’s maximum-security block. In October authorities reported the daily population of the prison and the remand center at 1,396, compared with 1,433 in October 2013. To address overcrowding in the remand center, which stemmed from processing backlogs within the judicial system, authorities held prisoners awaiting trial in the maximum-security block. In October the commissioner of corrections (formerly the prison superintendent) reported the maximum-security wing of the prison held 753 inmates, which was twice the number of inmates it was built to hold when constructed in 1953. Authorities generally held remanded non-Bahamian citizens in the maximum-security block if they were deemed to pose an escape risk. Authorities estimated that 47 percent of those held in maximum security were awaiting trial.
In October authorities reported confining as many as five inmates to cells intended for one or two prisoners. The majority of cells had adequate sanitary facilities, and additional improvements were underway as of October. Authorities allowed maximum-security inmates outside for exercise four days a week for one hour per day. Medium-security and minimum-security units had running water and toilets and, in some cases, a television set for prisoners to watch. Food supplies were adequate. A few cells, however, lacked running water, and in those cells inmates removed human waste by bucket. Four reverse-osmosis units installed at various prison housing units allowed each inmate to extract one gallon of potable water during exercise time each day, free of charge. In addition inmates could purchase bottled water and other beverages from the prison commissary.
Prison guards complained about the lack of a full-time dentist, failure to appoint a staff psychiatrist, and perimeter walls being incomplete for more than six years.
There were two inmate deaths through October. Authorities reported one was due to natural causes, and the second remained under investigation as of October.
Authorities held female prisoners at the DCS in a separate building located away from the retention area for male prisoners, but still within the same area surrounded by the prison wall. On October 1, there were 44 female prisoners. Conditions for women were less severe and less crowded than for men. Women had access to the same work-release programs available to men.
Authorities kept all juvenile offenders separated from adult offenders, holding remanded male juveniles in a custody block designated for juveniles only. They placed sentenced male juveniles at the medium security facility at the DCS and kept all female juveniles at the Female Housing Security Unit separated from adults.
The capacity of the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center was 150 persons housed in two dormitories. The highest occupancy at the detention center through November was 498 persons; the population was 265 as of November 5. The dormitories were segregated by gender and secured using locked gates, metal fencing, and barbed wire. When the dormitories exceeded maximum capacity, detention center staff utilized the floor of the main hall in the medical building to accommodate up to another 50 individuals with sleeping space. Any additional detainees slept outside. Following the implementation of the new immigration policy on November 1 (see Pretrial Detention below), authorities initially held accompanied children together with their mothers in the women’s dormitory at the detention center, but later identified a local church facility where they housed the women with their children. They held unaccompanied minors in the Children’s Emergency Hostel and the Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home.
In September a small group of Cuban detainees attempted to set fire to the facility, reportedly to protest living conditions. Authorities reportedly contained the protest without incident, and no persons were charged. Authorities reported only minor complaints from detainees during the year, mostly concerning type and quantity of food. An advocacy group alleged that guards occasionally assaulted detainees. Human rights organizations also reported that rats and mice infested the living quarters. Some former detainees alleged that they were not allowed to contact their respective embassies or consulates. None of the eight pay telephones were operational, but detainees commonly had access to smuggled cell phones. Migrant detainees did not have access to an ombudsman or other means of submitting uncensored complaints.
The government made progress in its case against five Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines who in 2013 allegedly beat five Cuban detainees with batons and pipes at the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center. The closed military tribunal hearing the case heard testimony on several occasions from key witnesses, several of whom traveled from Cuba and other countries to testify. In July the tribunal temporarily suspended the case while it sought testimony from one final witness abroad.
Administration: Recordkeeping was adequate. Prisoners and detainees generally had reasonable access to visitors and could participate in religious observance. Some organizations providing aid, counseling, education services, and religious instruction had regular access to inmates. A designated ombudsman was available to inmates charged with serious offenses, and other prisoners were entitled to an audience with the commissioner or a designee upon request to lodge complaints. The commissioner was available to hear the complaints of prisoners six days per week. Authorities stated that there were 87 complaints to judicial authorities concerning situations in the prison as of October, mostly related to lack of shower time, cell temperatures, and lack of access to dental facilities. Officials stated they investigated all credible allegations. Through October 1, authorities reported 803 preliminary inquiries and investigations of staff and inmates, an increase from 22 through the same period in 2013, attributed to improved processes. Alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders was available for juveniles and persons addicted to drugs (or substance abusers).
Independent Monitoring: Human rights organizations complained that the government did not consistently grant requests by independent human rights observers for access to the DCS, Carmichael Road Detention Center, and the two juvenile centers. The government maintained additional bureaucratic procedures for some civil society organizations to gain access to the detention center, making it difficult to visit detainees on a regular basis. These groups generally operated with independence from the government.
Improvements: Through October the DCS commissioner reported improvements to the sanitation system including the installation of toilets in the maximum security block, cell-phone jammers along with a functioning pay-phone system, perimeter fortification, additional recreational facilities, and completion of new staff quarters. The damaged roof underwent major repairs during the year. A new work-release program was initiated, and prison officers assigned to the drug rehabilitation unit were trained on treating substance use disorders.