NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has revealed that The Bahamas has the highest rate of imprisonment per capita when compared to other countries in the Caribbean.
The report, which was released this month, examines survey data collected from 3,528 inmates in six Caribbean countries: The Bahamas (2016), Barbados (2018), Guyana (2017), Jamaica (2018), Suriname (2018), and Trinidad and Tobago (2018).
“Caribbean countries tend to use incarceration to a greater degree than countries in other regions,” it said.
“Six of the fifteen countries with the highest incarceration rates worldwide are Caribbean islands.”
All of the countries, except Jamaica, had incarceration rates well above the international average of 145 inmates per 100,000.
The report also revealed that the Caribbean region suffers from a higher than world average homicide rate – within four of the six countries studied having homicide rates more than three times the global average.
The Bahamas comes in the close third behind Jamaica and Suriname.
“Additionally, there is no evidence that the large incarceration of people who committed drug-related crime is reducing the availability of illegal drugs,” the report said.
“Except for Jamaica, the other five countries have between 11 percent and 20 percent of their inmates locked up for drug-related crime, some of them charged for felonies with no violence.
“Incarceration does not appear to significantly reduce criminality in these countries.”
The report further outlined overcrowding concerns as a key indicator of the state of the Caribbean penitentiary system.
The Bahamas has an overcrowding rate of 173 percent.
The report further noted that based on the countries reviewed, non-convicted inmates account for a sizable portion of the prison population.
According to the 2017 IDB book, ‘The Costs of Crime and Violence: New Evidence and Insights in Latin America and the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago spent the most on prison administration of the sample.
The study analyzed incarceration-related public expenditure and income losses as a percentage of GDP in seventeen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The IDB’s comparative report outlines findings and recommendations for the urgent need for prison reform across the Caribbean and offers directions to Caribbean governments as they consider the role of prisons in creating safer and more just societies.
The recommendations advised Caribbean governments to prioritize reducing the prison population; expand and strengthen rehabilitation and reintegration programs; and implement more cohesive public safety strategies that balance prevention and control and incorporate the wealth of empirical evidence that is available.
Governments in those countries have also been advised to address the high levels of physical and sexual violence occurring within the facilities, where many inmates have either been victimized or witnessed others being victimized.
“High levels of physical and sexual violence deserve the attention and resources of correctional authorities, and changes should be based on evidence accumulated internationally regarding preventing prison violence and intervention strategies to reduce these incidents,” the report advised.
As of June 30, 2019, there were 2,558 admitted inmates with facilities capacity being 1,000 persons, according to an auditor’s general report.
The total number of staff amounts to 734 – of which 715 are uniformed and 19 are non-uniformed.