Dames orders an end to prison officer strip searches

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS  – A strict order handed down from Marvin Dames, Minister of National Security, to officials at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) demands that prison officials immediately cease the practice of strip-searching prison officers.

The procedure, which was introduced late 2018 by Charles Murphy, Acting Commissioner of Prisons at BDOCS, was apparently introduced in an effort to reduce corrupt officers from transporting illegal contraband into the secure facility.

The leadership of the Prison Staff Association alerted Eyewitness News Online about their displeasure with the procedure on January 4.

The disgruntled prison officers said the strip search was invasive and demeaning.

Five days after their story was published, Ryan Wilson, President of the Prison Staff Association updated Eyewitness News Online that Minister Dames had ordered that prison officials put a stop to the strip search procedure.

According to Wilson, the order was issued from Minister Dames’ office following a meeting with the Prison Staff Association.

Wilson confirmed that the practice has been suspended and new measures, based on the association’s recommendations, are expected to be introduced.

“We appreciate that he [Minister Dames] has rectified the situation. We are also satisfied that the unconstitutional search has been suspended,” Wilson said.

“Moving forward, the association along with the ministry and prison officials will try to implement best practices in line with international standards to ensure that prison officers do not feel demoralized.”

Wilson did not provide any details concerning what new measures were proposed by the association when they met with Minister Dames, however, he noted that the minister was “on-board,” to ensure that officers “maintain their dignity.”

In 2018 a number of prison officers were charged before the court for trying to smuggle illegal contraband into the facility.

There were also a number of raids executed at BDOCS, which uncovered illegal items such as cellular phones and weapons; believed to have been brought in by officers.

Wilson has gone on record to note that the association does not support corruption among prison officials and agrees that measures must be instituted to prevent illegal contraband from entering the compound, but he stands resolute that procedures must remain humane.