By THEA RUTHERFORD,Guardian Staff Rporter
Conditions at Fox Hill Prison have been described as being a "travesty of humanity." Attorney Paul Moss Jr made the charge Wednesday at a press conference just across the street from the institution. Moss, who visited a relative in the prison daily for a month, said that conditions at the prison are "degrading for officer and inmate alike."
"The animals at the Humane Society live under far better conditions than the inmates at Fox Hill Prison," he said. He claimed to have witnessed inmates carrying human waste from their prison cells in garbage bags and the same barrels used to cart out waste were also used to transport food to the inmates.
Mr Moss, a corporate attorney, said his interacting with his relative and other prisoners has convinced him that conditions at HMP are "adverse to what is necessary for the rehabilitation of former inmates into the wider society."
He feared that a prison that will unleash frustrated ex-convicts into the community perpetuate recidivism. Mr Moss claimed that prison officers are "very demoralised." Their jobs, he claimed, were "hazardous to their health."
Mr Moss described the maximum security building as the "most archaic" building in The Bahamas with inadequate lighting and poor ventilation. He claimed lack of fire safety implementations such as fire exits and extinguishers.
Mr Moss said he and other lawyers who visit the prison on a regular basis, are obligated to agitate for the amelioration of prison conditions. He blamed himself, lawyers, the media, the judiciary and each government, including the current administration, for "allowing fellow Bahamians to suffer." Asked if he planned to take his complaints directly to the minister in charge of HMP, Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia Pratt, Mr Moss said, "They have access to deeper parts of the prison and know it better than me."
Mr Moss proposed, however, what he believed to be the first step towards alleviating problems such as overcrowding. He suggested that The Bahamas adopt electronic monitoring techniques in order to hold prisoners on remand in their homes or to simply condemn unfit prison buildings. He stated that it is not good enough for the government to claim that there is not enough money to affect change in the prison system. Millions of dollars, he claimed, has been wasted on other things.
Omar Bradley Smith, deputy leader of the BDM, also present at the press conference, concurred with Mr Moss on improvements needed at HMP. Mr Smith said it was the "moral duty of Bahamians to stand up for these improvements."
Earlier this year Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia Pratt addressed the sanitation issue of 'plastic bag toilets,' claiming that there were in fact none, but sewage disposal at HMP is a problem that the government needs to deal with.
Two of the improvements made based on the recommendations of the 2002 Prison Reform Commission so far have been the construction of a new kitchen and new Central Intake Facility to replace the old remand centre. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is slated for the continuation of these reforms for the 2003/4 fiscal year.
The superintendent of Prisons was not available for comment at the time.