Committee looking at parameters of parole system

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On average, inmates in The Bahamas serve two-thirds of their sentence before being released into society without any conditions or supervision, according to Parole Committee co-chair, retired Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who called this “unsatisfactory” as he explained why a parole system would increase public safety.

“When a person is sentenced in the court, the person is committed to the correctional institution,” Gomez told senior police officers at Police Headquarters before closed consultations with them yesterday.

“On the day that he or she is committed, the person is informed that one-third of the sentence is automatically omitted.

“They will only be serving two-thirds of the sentence.

“When they have completed the two-thirds, they are free to go.

“There is no supervision, no direction after they have served their time.

“… We find that unsatisfactory.”

Regional Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada Mike Ryan made a similar point.

“There is an existing parole system without controls,” he said.

The new parole system is expected to help get people out of the crowded prison and assist in their transition toward making a positive contribution to society.

But the government has not yet clearly outlined the specifics of such a program and how it will work, including which offenders would qualify to be placed on parole.

Explaining how the program could work in The Bahamas, Ryan said while consultation is ongoing, one thing is certain, “not everyone will be eligible for parole”.

“That’s a privilege that the inmate will have to apply for or that will be an automatic review,” he said.

“I think we have not landed on that piece yet… but it is not an automatic [thing, where] you apply, you get released.

“There will be some very strict decision-making criteria and the inmates will have to do a lot to earn that particular parole.”

Parole conditions could include no alcohol or drug consumption, restriction of movement, electronic monitoring and regular check-ins with a parole officer.

Failure to meet these conditions would result in incarceration.

The parole system is expected to include intensive rehabilitation prior to release.

According to Ryan, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said last week that the Royal Bahamas Police Force is ready to do what needs to be done.

Former Police Commissioner Paul Farquharson, who heads the parole committee, said 90 percent of the people currently in prison will come out within a decade and “some are coming out tomorrow”.

He said it’s not a matter of when, but how those men and women will be released, meaning a parole system would offer supervision for those released.

This could include a halfway house before release into society, according to the committee.

“The objectives are to increase public safety,” Farquharson said.

“Presently, people being released now are released with no supervision.

“And the proposed planned parole system is that these persons will be released with conditions and supervision.”

According to Gomez and committee member and attorney Wayne Munroe, the committee is exploring and comparing parole systems in other jurisdictions, including Canada, Florida and Jamaica.

The committee has been asked to submit a report of recommendations to establish a parole system to Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage by November.

Public consultation has yet to begin.

In February, Nottage said he expects legislation for the parole system by the end of the year.

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