UB and IDB Collaborate With Gov’t on Extensive Prison Research
6th October 2017
Researchers at University of The Bahamas (UB) have completed comprehensive research on inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services with findings that have implications for the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
With an overall focus on the Prisoner Psyche; Conditions at the Prison and the Legal System, the studies focused on topics as diverse as prisoners’ prior residences and schools, family lives of inmates, educational attainment & crime and the prison economy.
The findings were presented on Wednesday, 4th October at Our Prisoners: A Symposium held at UB’s Performing Arts Centre.
In 2016, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through the Probation and Parole Committee, requested that The College of The Bahamas – now UB – undertake a study of inmates at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services facility at Fox Hill, previously known at Her Majesty’s Prison. Based upon the data collected from interviews with over 350 inmates; faculty, staff and students from UB presented papers which examined various aspects of prisoners’ lives.
UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith spoke about the complexities of the research and the prisoners.
“It is regrettable that crime and violence remain high in our community and so it is vital that we do the research required not only to assist in the fight against crime, but more importantly to prevent crimes from occurring,” noted Dr. Smith.
“The research papers presented will allow us to consider what needs to be done to help reduce the risk of people committing crimes, of inmates being recidivists and how their incarceration can actually be beneficial to them, rather than just being punishment.”
In her presentation entitled “Improving Citizen Security with Numbers: Victimization in The Bahamas” (available at https://publications.iadb.org/handle/11319/8262) the IDB’s Ms. Lucciana Alvarez, visiting from its Washington Office set The Bahamas’ study in a regional and international context and demonstrated the high cost of crime and violence to the country as a percentage of its GDP.
Crime and violence are among the most pressing challenges for The Bahamas, particularly the impact on young people. Presently The Bahamas ranks third in the region with incarceration rates, at 439 per 100,000 in 2016, according to the Minister of National Security Hon. Marvin Dames.
In 2016, 2528 inmates were admitted to the correctional facility with males accounting for the largest group of offenders and males between 18 and 25 representing the largest age group, he said.
“These trends suggest that we must engage in dialogues relative to corrections, alternatives to incarceration and their role in the criminal justice system of The Bahamas. We must define exactly what should be accomplished while offenders are incarcerated,” said Minister Dames.
“At this point we need to understand what works and whether punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration are impactful within our system. Within this context our correctional institution faces myriad challenges and the need for clear, evidence based practices must now be considered,” he added.
According to the research findings, there may be a case for revised sentencing of female criminals, due to the particularly important role which mothers play in rearing Bahamian families. Other findings emphasized the importance of the home and neighbourhood as factors which are associated with behaviours of concern in the early life of the offender. While one study determined that 25% of inmates had left school at aged 15, another suggested that it is just as easy for inmates to obtain drugs in prison as in the general population.
The abstracts for the research are accessible online at: http://www.ub.edu.bs/our-prisoners-a-symposium/ and video of the presentations is accessible via:https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofTheBah/videos/10155196646252144/.
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