In January 2014, CSC and Her Majesty’s Prison of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas signed a Memorandum of Understanding to engage in the sharing of correctional information and expertise in an effort to improve correctional practices.
The Bahamas does not currently have a parole system or structured release process. Their government recently established a parole implementation committee with the mandate of drafting a parole bill for the Bahamas. They looked to Canada for support and guidance, and we invited them over to gather information and see how we manage gradual release.
On May 24, 2016, a delegation of six people from the Bahamas Parole Implementation Committee spent four days with CSC and Parole Board of Canada (PBC) staff on an information gathering mission. The delegation consisted of the following members:
Mr. Paul Farquharson, Chairman
Rev. Dr. Patrick Paul, Deputy Chairman
Mr. Doan Cleare, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections
Mr. Kermith Harris-Smith, Probation Officer
Mrs. Eddamae Weech, Retired Human Resource Manager, Bahamas Corrections
Mr. Shane Miller , Attorney General Office
As a senior project officer with Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) at CSC, I was fortunate to assist in planning the delegation’s visit and in accompanying them during the four days they were in Ottawa.
While here, the delegation attended information sessions provided by Commissioner Don Head, the Senior Deputy Commissioner, Anne Kelly, and the PBC Chairperson, Harvey Cenaiko, to bring them up to speed on how Canada handles parole.
Given the Bahamas will have to establish a legislative framework in which to ground their parole process, they required a comprehensive run-down of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR). This was provided by Legal Counsels, Michel Laprade and Gertrude Lavigne, who did a great job of breaking complex legislation down into easy to understand pieces.
The following day, the delegation was back to learn even more from the Institutional Reintegration, Reintegration Programs and Learning and Development staff members. These presentations were key in providing the Bahamian members with a better understanding of an offender’s entire journey through the Canadian criminal justice system, from intake to warrant expiry.
By the third day of their visit, the delegation had a well-rounded crash course on corrections in Canada, and we all travelled to Kingston, Ontario to see CSC operations in action. The Bahamians were able to observe a Parole Board hearing and walk the grounds of Joyceville institution for a tour.
They were very appreciative of the opportunity to observe an actual parole hearing – which, for them, really tied the process together. The in-person hearing gave them a better understanding what officials look for in terms of conditional release and risk management, and what goes into making a decision to release an offender prior to their warrant expiry.
The Bahamians took note of the non-adversarial approach taken by the Parole Board Members, and the fact that the hearing was not another trial, but rather a formal meeting that allowed the offender to provide information about his thoughts, feelings and actions at the time of the offence, what he has learned since and how he has benefitted from incarceration, and his plans if released.
The final day for the delegation was spent back in Ottawa and included a brief presentation by staff from the Ottawa Parole Office, along with a tour of two Community Residential Facilities (CRFs); Kirkpatrick House and Ste. Anne. Again the purpose was to demonstrate the benefits of gradual reintegration. Visiting the CRFs showed one of the mechanisms CSC uses to help ensure that offenders are provided with the supports and resources required to become positive, contributing members of our communities.
Overall, the members of the delegation came away with an abundance of information to assist them moving forward, with the hopes of having their own parole system approved and then implemented. To that end, Mike Ryan, Regional Deputy Commissioner, Ontario Region, is travelling to the Bahamas this month to assist them with the preparation of their report and recommendations to the Bahamian Minister.
This was a well-orchestrated four days! Every so often when international delegations visit CSC, the Intergovernmental Relations group calls on you – our NHQ and regional staff – for your support and to showcase all the innovative work we do. A big thank you to all of the staff involved during this visit. Your energy and the pride in your work was clearly evident, and your efforts are truly appreciated!