Prison overcrowding an issue

Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell

NASSAU — The population of Her Majesty’s Prisons has swelled well beyond 1,500 and the overcrowding problem is actually worsening crime, as the institution breeds and eventually “unleashes animals” back into society, according to Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell.

Bell said problems with overcrowding add to the “significant challenges” at the prison.

“Maximum security is built to hold 220 [people]. I think there are 800 people in there now,” said Bell during debate on the 2013/2014 budget in the Senate.

“It is a challenge that we have to address because these young men are coming back out into society and when they come back out in society, we are unleashing animals onto society. It has to be addressed and we have to see it as a priority.”

The prison has an average population of 1,400 on a daily basis, officials have said.

However, Bell said the prison population swelled beyond 1,500 yesterday.

The prison was built to hold 928 people, according to officials.

“Madam president, even though some people don’t look at how deep-seated this problem is, I would submit that there are two deep seated challenges there.

“First of all, you have a significant number of persons who are remanded at Her Majesty’s Prison, who are unable to get quick trials, hence the reason for bail.

“The second challenge is when you treat [people] like animals, [they begin to act like them]. They (prisoners in maximum security) are locked away in a cell with four persons. [Some] are locked away in a hallway that has been converted into a dormitory. They are locked in there. There’s the slop pail method of getting rid of waste.

“…Madam president, when I went there I thought there was a fire going on. The young men in there have to actually light pieces of paper to generate smoke to keep down the stench. That’s how bad it is.”

During his contribution to debate on the budget in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage also highlighted the issues related to overcrowding.

He said in maximum security there are as many as eight people in a single cell.

“The remand centre has an intended capacity of 204, medium security 210, and maximum, as I said 220,”‚Nottage said.

“But you can see that if we have 1,507 people, that is far more than the building was built to accommodate.” (Nassau Guardian)

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