Monday, October 26, 2020

Why People May Be Released Early from Prison During the Pandemic

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said nearly 60 prisoners could be released early from the Bahamas Department of Corrections as COVID-19 cases climb exponentially in New Providence.

“To date, the Committee has recommended for approval, by the Governor-General, the release of 57 persons and others are currently being reviewed and considered for the same,” he said.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Health Organisation, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have jointly encouraged institutions of detention around the globe to consider the release of inmates, as COVID-19 undermines hygiene, health and safety due to social distancing limitations.

Why it matters

The Bahamas Department of Corrections has an inmate population of 1,489, with many crammed in small spaces, sharing cells, showers and toilet spaces, making them susceptible to the virus.

The cramped spaces make it impossible to social distance, poor hygiene exists and like in many prisons, hand sanitizers are not permitted as they can be used to brew alcoholic drinks.

This is a big move. Who will be released?

The Prerogative Board of Mercy Committee has begun reviewing the files of inmates to determine who would be considered high-risk for contracting the virus.

The board is considering the following people for release:

  • the elderly
  • people with comorbidity
  • people who have completed more than half of their sentences with good behavior
  • people sentenced for minor, non-violent offenses that don’t compromise public safety

The virus may be rising within the prison. Reported COVID-19 prison statistics

There are two confirmed positive cases of the virus which represent 0.1 percent of the total inmate population.

  • The first case was recorded in August, five months after the first case was recorded in the Bahamas. The inmate contracted the virus while receiving medical care for an unrelated illness outside of the prison.
  • The second reported case is a  male inmate who tested positive on September 23rd.
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