Committee receives over 700 applications for criminal record expungement
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than 700 people who have served their time and returned to society have applied for their criminal records to be expunged, according to Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee Chairman Paul Farquharson.
During a press conference, Farquharson indicated that the records of 25 individuals had been expunged while many others were in “various stages of being expunged”.
“And, therefore, we are urging our young people to submit the applications urgently to us, if they wish, so that we can deal with their requests.”
The committee launched last September, but had challenges holding hearings due to the ongoing pandemic.
It is comprised of seven members who review and hear applications for record expungement.
Farquharson said as the committee ramps up its work it will focus on first-time offenders of any age and those under the age of 21 with criminal records to provide them with a “second chance”.
“It is not a very difficult process,” Farquharson said.
“There are application forms that can be obtained from the Ministry of National Security and we want to urge our young people who have over the years got themselves, unfortunately, involved in one offense while they were youngsters.
“The records themselves are like an albatross around the necks of youngsters.
“They can’t get a job. They can’t get a bank loan. They can’t go to university if they want to.
“They’re looked at as outcasts in society in certain quarters, and therefore we want to encourage our young people to make the application and this committee is willing to assist them.”
He added: “We want all of The Bahamas — and I know from my experience that persons on the Family Islands are gravely, I believe they need to have the assistance of this committee.”
Meanwhile, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said based on the recommendations of the Prerogative of Mercy (POM) committee — involving individuals still incarcerated — for shortened sentences or early release, the government will release “the largest list that we will consider” of inmates before the end of the year.
“When we came into office, this committee was essentially dormant and so over the years we continue to release persons for good behavior and persons who would have been recommended as low risk and we are grateful for that,” the minister said.
“We’re hoping to review another listing before the end of the year and give those persons who would be considered a new start to the new year. That’s the objective.
“This will probably be the largest list that we will consider, but certainly into 2021 we’ll continue to do that.
“This all goes hand in hand with our efforts to transform and rehabilitate, and reform and reintegrate back into our communities our young men and women who are showing good signs of [readiness] to be included and reintegrated back into society.”
According to Dames, 57 people have been released for the year so far based on the POM’s recommendations.
Speaking to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee, Dames said increased focus will be placed on ensuring Bahamians understand the purpose of the committee and how it can help them.
“We are already beginning to see the worth of that and the success of doing that,” he said.
“There are some persons already and some amazing, and really some heartwarming stories of persons who would have been given a second chance, and would have had their records expunged, and are now working as productive citizens throughout this country.
“And that’s what makes this all worthwhile and we’re very pleased.
“But the key is here; the work of this committee, it’s amazing and we want to get the message out.”
The minister said the government will seek to expand the reach of the committee via social media and mainstream outlets to ensure Bahamians become aware of the avenues to a clean record.