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 Bahamas Commentary

2006-02-08 08:24:48

Protective Custody of the State?

Something is dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Some say that the photographs are those of two prisoners. What we can tell you is that we were sickened to the stomach when we saw the photographs of what appeared to be two naked black men. These men are purportedly persons who are supposed to be in the protective custody of the state. If these photographs are genuine, the point that they make is that Her Majesty's Prison, Fox Hill is quite literally a hell-hole.

Making the matter of the photographs worse is the response they have been given by the wider community. Here silence seems to be the order of the day. This is surely most disappointing in a society where so many are wont to consider themselves Christian. There is in neither photograph anything that speaks to love or charity or respect for the dignity of the human person.

Instead what we see depicted is a most nasty display of brutality-pure-and-simple. Compounding the matter is the fact that this brutality is taking place on the watch of an administration that has talked so much about prison reform.

It is quite evident that the men in the photographs were "brought down" by superior force. In a sense, then, they were reduced to what they were by men who were even more ferocious and in a sense even more sadistic than they could have imagined.

Whoever put those men in those degrading positions, where they were left cold and naked on a concrete slab, are men who have wives, sisters, brothers and other family. These brutal men would - as necessary consequence and job-related implication - take some parts of their nasty work home with them, thus exposing the wider community to some of their covert and expressed sadism.

The Bahamas is a virtual paradise for most of the millions of people who visit the archipelago. It has a similar panache for some of the people who happen to live in some good places scattered throughout the island chain.

But as true as this is for some Bahamians and some visitors, there is another reality. This time around, this reality speaks of a Bahamas that is akin to a living hell. This is the Bahamas where poverty is real and in which certain kinds of criminals thrive.

It is that Bahamas where disputes are privately and sometimes murderously settled, thus the mantra about crime waves. Thus the desire for the authorities to "get serious" about doing some thing about crime.

Here the reference is to this or that draconian penalty for this or that serious offence against persons or property. In this regard, the air is near saturation with talk about capital punishment and the imposition of other grossly vengeful punishments. We note that some of these calls have come from the lips of any number of church men and women.

This is precisely where the real fright begins.

Bahamians need only take a visit to Her Majesty's Prison to get whiff, taste, and sight of what the State - acting in the name of The People - is prepared to stomach and countenance. That place is an abomination. Its stench must have by now reached God's nostrils.

Today some of this degradation and some of this abomination have - in all likelihood - been photographed. The nastiness persists even in the face of evidence that the prison is a near-perfect incubator for all manner of social pathologies.

In instance after dreadful instance, some of those who enter diseased and troubled return to society even more diseased and even more troubled in mind, body and spirit. Tragically, too, some of the younger Bahamians on remand become diseased and distressed, as they wait for their day in court.

Believe it or not, some of these people are innocent.

Something is dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Decent law-abiding Bahamians can and should do something about it. They should demand - as we now do- that the Government of the Bahamas see to it that the expression "protective custody of the state" does not become a shield and shroud for the foulest of brutalities.

In the ultimate analysis, then, our advice to the Ministry of National Security and its hosts of investigators is that instead of wondering and trying to find out who took the pictures, they should re-double their efforts to see to it the expression "protective custody of the state" means some thing real in a self-styled "Christian nation".

Editor, The Bahama Journal

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