NASSAU, Bahamas, Jun 19, CMC – Regional prison and correctional officers have started a meeting here with National Security Minister Dr Bernard J Nottage calling for an all out war to eradicate organised criminal gangs within the prisons.
“Given the poisonous, insidious impact of gangs within our penal system, no effort should be spared to eradicate them by all lawful means possible,” Nottage said as he addressed delegates attending the Association of Caribbean Heads of Conference and Prison Services and the Caribbean Association of Corrections Conferences.
He said while the presence of organised gangs in The Bahamas’ penal system “is a relatively new phenomenon” such gangs however not only spur violence “they are often central to ‘hits’ being ordered on law abiding witnesses and ordinary citizens”.
He told the conference, which enters its second day on Tuesday that the emergence of organised gangs and the importation of contraband such as illicit drugs and cellular telephones, were negatively impacting prison populations and administrations worldwide.
“These twin evils continue to wreak havoc on prison administrations because of the polluting and contaminating influence on institutional law and order and public safety generally,” Nottage said.
“The incorporation of various technical devices to stem the stream of contraband smuggling has led to varying degrees of success. I am advised that this is largely so because most of our penal institutions are saddled with a relatively small band of highly organised rogue officers who use trafficking as a part-time occupation.
“One may ask, ‘How is it possible for a few bad apples to spoil the barrel’. The easy explanation takes us back to the age-old adage that evil men triumph, when good men do nothing,” he added.
Nottage said that the regional penal institutions should no longer just try to identify officers who are corrupt, but also find ways to provide incentives to those who are upright and honest.
“What I am suggesting is that in order to reduce the scourge of contraband common to all of our institutions, we must no longer simply try to identify those who are corrupt. We must find ways to (provide incentives) for officers who are otherwise law abiding, but indifferent and silent in the face of wrongdoing.
“You must find new ways not just to resist and expose complicity and corruption in corrections. Indeed it is your duty to expose it.
“I note from the programme that one of your sessions will examine the role of gangs within prisons. It is my hope that as a result of your deliberations, you may help to formulate new ideas and policies on how we may best deal with this vexing problem,” he told the delegates from 14 Caribbean countries.