Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames noted, on October 9, 2019, that his Ministry is the Executing Agency for the Citizen Security and Justice Programme in The Bahamas (CSJP), and, within the programme’s budget, about $17,000,000 had been committed to strengthening crime prevention forces beyond the prison walls. “As a matter of fact the prison has the smallest budget allocation within this project,” Minister Dames said during the event entitled “Beyond Our Prisoners” at the Baha Mar Convention Centre.
The event also included the launch of the publication “Our Prisoners: A Collection of Papers Arising from a 2016 Survey of Inmates at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Facility at Fox Hill”, co-produced with The University of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security. “Beyond the prison walls, we continue to collaborate with at least 13 partner agencies every day, as we work to manage the crime and safety elements within our communities,” Minister Dames said. “This is important because we are cognizant of the fact that more effective crime prevention initiatives is one way to reduce prison overpopulation and overcrowding.” Minister Dames pointed out that, every day, the Ministry of National Security works with many stakeholder Ministries and civil society, beyond the prison walls.
He added that his Ministry had realized, for some time now, that investments in prisons alone, without complementary investments in diversionary and post-release services, was “an investment that is bound to fail”. Minister Dames stated that the use of CCTV in the prevention of crime had grown exponentially over the past 10 years, and that the expansion of the CTV programme ensured that at-risk communities had the latest crime-fighting technologies.
“The Government of The Bahamas signed a five million dollar contract to expand CCTV presence throughout identified ‘hot spots’ in New Providence,” he said. “This provision also includes, license detection and facial recognition capabilities.” Minister Dames noted that more than $1,724,668 had been allocated to improving behaviours for non-violent conflict resolution.
“This is one of the four components of the Citizen Security and Justice Programme,” he said. “Today, we complete the first part of the programme to train 400 community leaders in sexual violence prevention, gender- based violence prevention skills, effective parenting skills and skills for effective conflict resolution.” “We are completing refurbishment works and access negotiations for three community centres and are acquiring three more,” Minister Dames added. “These centres are strategically placed in communities where indicators have shown there is a significant need for diversionary intervention.”
Minister Dames pointed out that more than $1,171,967 was being spent on increasing employability and employment of youth. “Notice I did not say ‘planning to be spent”; but it is, in fact, being spent,” he said.
Minister Dames noted that employability improvement programmes empowered the nation’s youth and young adult population, between the ages 15 and 29, through soft skills and technical skills training. He stated that the Department of Labour has partnered with the National Training Agency (NTA) and other educational service providers to implement training programmes designed to prepare some 2,600 young persons for the workforce. “In addition, graduates of the prison’s BTVI training programme are registered with the Department of Labour, so that they can be assisted with seeking employment upon their release from prison,” he said.
Minister Dames pointed out that, in recognizing that prison population size is directly affected by the efficiency of the criminal justice system, his Ministry — through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme — was working diligently with the judiciary, on a case management system, at a cost of some $750,000, to improve court scheduling, electronic case filing/tracking, and court reporting. “About $550,000 was spent on refurbishing two courts, expanding their capacity and infrastructural capabilities,” he noted. “These targeted outcomes are aimed at better managing the reduction of backlogged criminal cases. “The Ministry of National Security recognizes that increasing the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement system reduces the number of inmates that are on remand within the prison. Prison overcrowding is, thus, reduced.”