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.
Physical Conditions: 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. In October authorities reported the daily population of the prison and the remand center at 1,433, compared with more than 1,600 in August 2012. Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage characterized overcrowding at the prison, designed to hold 750 inmates, as “unacceptable,” attributing the overcrowding to the large number of petty criminals incarcerated and to 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 prisoners awaiting trial in the maximum-security block. In October the prison superintendent reported the maximum-security wing of the prison held 802 inmates, which was twice the number of inmates it was built to house when constructed in 1953. Authorities generally held non-Bahamian citizens deemed to pose an escape risk in remand in the maximum-security block. Authorities estimated that 79 percent of those held in maximum security were awaiting trial.
In September authorities reported confining as many as five inmates to cells intended for one or two prisoners. Others remained in poorly ventilated and poorly lit cells that lacked regular running water. Inmates removed human waste by bucket. Authorities installed suitable waste plumbing in the maximum-security unit, but toilets were not yet in place. 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 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 conditions, including inadequate running water in the prison, repairs needed for the women’s 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, and a damaged roof in need of repair in the maximum-security block; moreover, they asserted that the use of prison guards at the remand center violated the Prison Act. A formal panel reviewed the guards’ complaints and determined the majority to be without merit. The damaged roof was under repair at the end of the year.
There were two inmate deaths through November. Authorities reported that both were due to natural causes.
Authorities held female prisoners at HMP 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 45 female prisoners. Conditions were less severe and less crowded than for men; however, women did not have access to the same work-release programs available for male prisoners. Data on the number of female inmates who were awaiting trial were not available.
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 HMP. They kept all female juveniles at the Female Housing Security Unit separated from adults.
The highest occupancy at the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center through November was 214 persons in early September. Authorities converted the center, originally a school, 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 2004 fire, limiting the facility to two dormitories with capacity for 150 detainees. Drinking water was available from a tap in the facility. 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 150 beds in the center. Authorities held parent detainees with children in the women’s dormitory at the detention center. They held unaccompanied minors in the Children’s Emergency Hostel and the Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home.
Five Cuban detainees drew international attention when they claimed that detention center guards beat them on May 5 with batons and pipes, resulting in at least one hospitalization and various injuries. The government conducted an internal investigation and charged five Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines via a closed military tribunal. The proceedings continued as of November.
As of September 17, there were 90 detainees in the facility. In 2012 authorities reported that they repatriated 3,318 irregular immigrants to their home countries. That group consisted of 2,525 Haitians (2,059 males, 431 females, and 35 children) and 793 from other countries.
With the exception of the May 5 incident, authorities reported only minor complaints from detainees during the year, mostly concerning type and quantity of food. An advocacy group alleged additional assaults, including the sexual assault of a female detainee. Human rights organizations also reported that rats and mice infested the living quarters. Authorities denied some detainees the right to contact their respective embassies or consulates. None of the eight pay telephones were operational and no alternative telephone was available to detainees. Detainees did not have access to an ombudsman or other means of submitting uncensored complaints.
Administration: Generally, prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and could participate in religious observance. Some organizations providing aid, counseling services, and religious instruction had regular access to inmates. Although there was no designated ombudsman, prisoners were entitled to an audience with the superintendent or a designee upon request to lodge complaints. The superintendent was available to hear the complaints of prisoners every day of the week except Sundays. Although more recent data were not available, 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 they investigated all credible allegations. Through October 1, authorities reported 22 preliminary inquiries and investigations of staff and inmates. Alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders was not available. The tracking of prisoners was adequate. Two prisoners escaped while receiving medical treatment at the government hospital and were later recaptured.
Independent Monitoring: Human rights organizations complained that the government did not consistently grant requests by independent human rights observers for access to HMP, Carmichael Road 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: Through October the HMP superintendent reported improvements to the water-supply system, commissary expansion, and increased entrance security in an attempt to control contraband. A new drug rehabilitation dorm held 15 inmates.