Prison and detention center conditions generally failed to meet international standards, and conditions at Her Majesty’s Prison at Fox Hill (HMP), the country’s only prison, remained harsh and unsanitary for many prisoners. HMP facilities include the remand center, remand court, maximum security blocks, medium security and minimum security/work release units, and a separate women’s unit. Overcrowding and access to adequate medical care were major problems in the men’s maximum-security block.
Physical Conditions: In August authorities reported the daily population of the prison and the remand center exceeded 1,600, compared with 1,300 in October 2011. Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage characterized the extent of overcrowding at the prison as “unacceptable”, attributing the overcrowding to the large number of petty criminals incarcerated and the backlog in processing at the remand center. To address overcrowding in the remand center, which stemmed from processing backlogs within the judicial system, authorities held detainees awaiting trial in the maximum-security block. In June the prison superintendent reported the maximum-security wing of the prison held nearly 900 inmates, which was twice the number of inmates it was built to house when constructed by British colonial authorities in 1953. Non-Bahamian citizens, deemed to pose an escape risk, were generally held in remand in the maximum-security block. Authorities estimated that 46 percent of those held in maximum security were awaiting trial.
In June authorities reported that as many as six inmates were confined to cells intended for one or two prisoners. Others remained in poorly ventilated and poorly lit cells that lacked regular running water. In 2010 authorities installed composting toilets in an attempt to move away from the unsanitary practice of removing human waste by bucket, or “slopping.” However, these toilets were ineffective and subsequently removed, after which slopping resumed. 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 for prisoners to watch. Four reverse-osmosis units installed at various prison housing units allowed each inmate to extract a minimum of one gallon of potable water during exercise time each day, free of charge. In addition, bottled water and other beverages were available for purchase from the prison commissary.
Prison guards complained about conditions, including inadequate running water in the prison, repairs needed for the female prison, and improper management of officers. They also cited the lack of a full-time dentist, failure to appoint a staff psychiatrist, incomplete perimeter walls for more than five years, a damaged roof in need of repair in the maximum-security block, and that the use of prison guards at the remand center violated the Prison Act.
There was one inmate death during the year. On February 7, a person held in remand for more than a year at HMP on charges involving financial fraud died in custody due to complications from a long-term illness. His death occurred only days before his scheduled release. Prison authorities failed to ensure adequate medical treatment in a timely manner in this case, despite repeated requests for medical treatment. Moreover, there was significant evidence that prison officials failed to ensure the security of the deceased’s prison commissary account, which was exhausted by unauthorized persons.
Authorities held female prisoners at HMP in a separate building located away from the retention area for male prisoners. The female population numbered less than 100 prisoners. Conditions for female prisoners were less severe and less crowded than for men; however, women did not have access to the same work-release programs available to male prisoners. Authorities declined to provide data on the number of female inmates who were awaiting trial.
The prison did not have a separate section for juvenile offenders between the ages of 16 and 18 but used a classification system to attempt to separate them from the most dangerous adults. Authorities held offenders younger than 16, along with children made wards of the court, at the Simpson Penn Center for Boys and the Williamae Pratt Center for Girls. Escapes were common; after seven teenage boys escaped from Penn Center in August, the minister of social services identified security conditions at both juvenile centers as an “urgent issue.”
The highest occupancy at the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center during the year was 375 persons. The center, originally a school, was converted into a detention center in the mid-1990s to accommodate the increase in number of irregular migrants. When the center initially opened, it consisted of four dormitories, each with a 50-bed capacity. Two of those dormitories burned in a fire started by inmates in 2004, limiting the current facility to two dormitories with the capacity for 100 detainees. The dormitories were gender segregated and secured using locked gates, metal fencing, and barbed wire. When the dormitories were at 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. International observers noted 64 beds in the center. Parent detainees with children were held in the women’s dormitory at the detention center. Unaccompanied minors were housed in the Children’s Emergency Hostel and the Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home.
International human rights organizations reported receiving firsthand accounts of abuse from detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Center who claimed their access to basic necessities and medical screening was restricted and that routine medical care was not provided. Interpretation support was not regularly available. Detainees also reported that they were physically abused, and that Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) officers regularly beat detainees while prison officers watched. On December 5, a Trinidadian male detainee died; the cause of death was listed as respiratory failure, although the family claimed that the individual had no history of health-related problems. Authorities reportedly removed the center’s director following this death. International observers reported that attorneys were restricted from meeting with detained clients and when visits were granted, the attorney had to conduct the meeting in the presence of an immigration official.
As of December 10, there were 114 detainees, five of whom had been held more than 24 months. Authorities reported that they repatriated 3,318 irregular immigrants to their home countries during the year. This group consisted of 2,525 Haitians (2,059 males, 431 females, and 35 children) and 793 from other countries.
Authorities reported only minor complaints from detainees during the year, mostly concerning type and quantity of food. However, human rights organizations received reports that rats and mice infested the living quarters. Human rights organizations also reported that authorities denied some detainees the right to contact their respective embassies or consulates, that none of the eight pay telephones were operational, and that no alternative telephone was made available to detainees. Detainees did not have access to an ombudsman or other means of submitting uncensored complaints. Drinking water was available from a tap in the men’s facility. The bathroom sinks in the women’s facility were not functioning but the toilets and shower were in working order. Women drew their drinking water from the shower.
Administration: Generally, prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and were permitted religious observance. Some organizations providing aid, counseling services, and religious instruction had regular access to inmates. Although there was no designated ombudsman, upon request prisoners were entitled to an audience with the superintendent or a designee to lodge complaints. The superintendent was available to hear the complaints of prisoners every day of the week except Sundays. Although the government declined to provide more recent data, in 2011 authorities said that there were 20 complaints to judicial authorities concerning situations in the prison, mostly related to a desire to be placed in the day-release work program, a shortage of recreational equipment, and greater access to dental facilities. Officials stated that they investigated all credible allegations. Authorities conducted 43 preliminary inquiries and investigations of staff and inmates. Alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders was not available. The tracking of prisoners was inadequate. Between June and October five prisoners escaped while receiving medical treatment at the government hospital.
Monitoring: Human rights organizations complained the government did not consistently grant requests by independent human rights observers for access to HMP, Carmichael Detention Center, and the two juvenile centers. The government maintained additional bureaucratic procedures for some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to gain access to the detention center, making it difficult to visit detainees on a regular basis.
Improvements: In June the HMP superintendent announced that the facility introduced several cost-cutting measures, including switching from brand name to generic cigarettes for prisoners’ cigarette rations provided in accordance with the rules of the Prison Act. He also cited other cost-cutting measures, including baking bread and manufacturing certain items on prison grounds. The superintendent credited a newly established video remand center, also located on prison grounds, with contributing to significant fuel savings given that fewer vehicles were required to transport prisoners between the prison and downtown courts on a daily basis.