Dames congratulates Department of Correctional Services graduates

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames speaks, on December 6, 2018, at a ceremony recognizing 100 Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) graduates, who successfully completed their respective Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) training courses. (BIS Photos / Eric Rose)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of National Security Marvin Dames recently lauded the 100 Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) and congratulated them on successfully completing their respective Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) training courses.

“Trainees, the fact that you are here today to receive a certificate for the successful completion of 10 weeks of vocational training is no small accomplishment,” Dames said, during a ceremony at BDOC, Fox Hill.

“By participating and committing to this program and engaging with your fellow trainees and instructors, you have demonstrated a resilience that, if maintained, will serve you well outside of this institution. You have all taken an important step in improving your lives and your communities.

“Well Done.”

Minister Dames also thanked the parents, family members and friends who were also there to celebrate that “very special moment” for their support and encouragement.

Minister Dames noted that the training course for inmates was an initiative of the Citizen Security and Justice Progamme, a multi-faceted crime prevention program funded by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank and managed by the Ministry of National Security.

He stated that the Ministry applied part of the proceeds of the loan to contract the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute to provide training that will lead to the certification of a total of 600 inmates and six corrections officers over the next two years.

“Today’s graduation ceremony represents an important milestone towards achieving the overall objective of the Citizen Security and Justice Programme – to reduce crime and violence, and increase safety and security in our communities,” Dames said.

“The Programme is an important part of the Ministry of National Security’s comprehensive crime-fighting strategy and aims to improve behaviors for nonviolent conflict resolution; increase employability and employment among vulnerable youth; strengthen institutional capabilities of justice services; and reduce the recidivism rate in the corrections system,” he added.

Dames said that the Government of The Bahamas fully understands the evidence-based connection between employability, empowerment and repeat offending.

“It is an established fact that strengthening the capacity of inmates to survive outside of prison reduces the chance of inmates returning to prison,” he said.  “An effective and comprehensive corrections program ultimately impacts crime reduction through influencing the rate of recidivism.”

Dames stated that The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services had been given the mandate to deliver effective rehabilitation and reintegration services in The Bahamas. The 2014 Correctional Services Act moved the focus of BDOCS to a stronger correctional approach in its management policies, he added.

However, Dames said despite its best efforts, the Department needs support in enhancing its capacity to deliver rehabilitation and reintegration programs.

“Previously there have been pockets of training over the years; but these have been limited in their capacity to impact a significant number of inmates,” he said.  “In terms of the work release program, less than three per cent of the population benefit from this activity.”

Dames noted that under the first installment of the training programme being celebrated that day, 100 inmates had succeeded in qualifying for basic certification in a variety of subject areas, including auto mechanics, barbering, carpentry, information technology, electrical, garment making, plumbing and masonry.

“The training courses used existing curricula, and participants were assessed by BTVI instructors in a manner commensurate with students on its main campus,” Dames said.  “The vocational training will be followed by three months of work experience in maintenance and repair on the BDOCS compound.”

Dames pointed out that, to ensure sustainability of the program, six selected correctional officers were undergoing training that will equip them to function as certified vocational instructors at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, working within the prison environment on a full-time basis. Selected prison industries will also be upgraded with modernized equipment to support this training initiative, he added.

“Inmates participating in this training program will leave the prison with recognized training certification and modernized industry experience,” Dames said.  “The certificates they will receive this morning bear the logo and insignia of BTVI, which will also allow them to enroll in the institution if they seek to advance their level of education after release.”

Dames said that programmes like those play a critical role in both prisons and society. Studies show that rehabilitation provides prisoners an opportunity to develop skills, increase post-release employability and contribute positively to families and society, he added.

“But this program is not a cure-all for all crime and violence in The Bahamas,” he said.  “The Ministry of National Security cannot do it alone. The ex-offender must still nurture personal commitment to work hard in resisting forces seeking to push him or her back into crime.”

Dames noted that the community must also continue to examine its attitude toward ex-offenders and provide much-needed support as many former inmates face barriers to successful reintegration into society.

“Today’s ceremony marks a significant step in the journey to full rehabilitation, and is yet another demonstration of the Ministry of National Security’s strategy to execute programs for the benefit of all Bahamians,” Dames said.

“Congratulations, good luck and continue to do well. God bless you.”

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This article was contributed by Eric Rose – BIS