EDITOR, The Tribune.
When the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services was relocated at Fox Hill in 1952, it was built to house a total of 334 inmates, with the main facility having a capacity of 224; a first offender’s facility being able to accommodate 80 inmates and a female’s facility, 30 inmates. Her Majesty’s Fox Hill Prison, as it was formerly named, houses at any given time, upwards of 1,200 inmates, with overcrowding and slopping being perennial problems in the maximum security block of the prison facility. Prison isn’t meant to be an exotic vacation experience, but if you treat human beings like savages, they will act like savages.
In an interview with NB12 Our News Bahamas, 18 18-year-old Deon Duverny spoke of his seven-day ordeal at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services for violating the national curfew imposed by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Unable to pay the $500 fine, he was incarcerated, being placed in a cell with about six other inmates. The entire narrative stemming from the Duverny incident will undoubtedly figure prominently in the 2022 campaign cycle, as Progressive Liberal Party campaign operatives will remind those on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder that they were disproportionately singled out by law enforcement agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was mainly this demographic Minnis appealed to in the lead up to the 2017 general election. Minnis’ intentions of wanting to save lives are indeed noble, although some of the decisions made will come back to haunt the Free National Movement (FNM) in 2022.
The attorneys who paid Duverny’s fine acted like good Samaritans, although one might have concerns about them parading an 18-year-old before the cameras. Perhaps it was done to bring awareness to what the emergency orders are doing to people who are less fortunate.
In any event, kudos to the attorneys. As for Duverny, his claim of being placed in a crowded cell should raise concerns within the FNM administration, the Public Hospitals Authority, the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Task Force about the possibility of there being a COVID-19 outbreak in Fox Hill Prison, especially given the fact that physical distancing, a practice subscribed by the World Health Organization, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and John Hopkins Medicine, is virtually impossible in a facility that is overcrowded, particularly in the maximum security area.
One would hope that prison officials are seeing to it that that facility is not only sanitized, but that inmates are given masks and are routinely washing their hands with clean running water. The Bahamas simply cannot afford a similar situation in the prison that occurred at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, in which 23 patients were tested positive for COVID-19, and one nurse, Bernadette Rolle, dying as a result of the virus. An outbreak at the prison would be an unmitigated disaster, which would expose the inmates and prison officials to the high risk of being infected.
August 23, 2020.