The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Ministry of Legal Affairs partnered together to deliver a Plea Agreement – Plea Bargain Workshop for justice sector professionals, including magistrates, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, July 17-18 in Nassau.
The workshop was funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and was part of ongoing U.S.-Bahamian cooperative efforts to increase efficiencies in the administration of justice in The Bahamas.
The two-day program was designed to enhance attendees’ knowledge of plea-bargaining systems and was facilitated by a team of four U.S. experts including a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and NCSC’s Senior Program Manager. The visiting NCSC team provided an overview of the U.S. legal framework and procedural mechanisms for successful plea bargaining systems, highlighting the practice and impact of plea bargaining in the United States through their collective experiences negotiating pleas and sentencing defendants in the U.S. federal and state systems.
In addition, the U.S. criminal experts engaged in interactive discussions on The Bahamas’ plea bargaining system and collaborated with their counterparts to identify best practices and challenges in the use of plea bargain/agreement frameworks in The Bahamas.
At the opening ceremony on July 17, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Lisa Johnson explained the significant part plea bargaining plays in the U.S. justice system, where approximately 95% of criminal cases are settled by plea bargain rather than jury trial. While plea bargaining saved the U.S. criminal justice system time and U.S. taxpayers money, the Chargé said, the processes and systems established for use in the United States were not necessarily the same processes and systems that should be used to address the demand and concerns of the Bahamian criminal justice system. The Chargé encouraged an active discussion that considered The Bahamas’ unique legal framework and approach to the administration of justice.
Workshop participants received a variety of materials include plea transcripts, institutional policies, case studies, and recommended standards for the plea bargaining process. The Ministry of Legal Affairs hosted a series of stakeholder discussions in advance of the workshop, laying the groundwork for a successful event.
The United States Embassy, Nassau
NCSC is a global leader in court management and administration services, working with justice systems worldwide to modernize court operations to help courts function more efficiently and transparently, offer quality services that increase access to justice, and respond efficiently to community needs. NCSC has worked in more than 30 countries, implement rule of law initiatives in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in countries with civil law, common law, sharia law, and traditional settlement systems.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) advises the President, Secretary of State, other bureaus in the Department of State, and other departments and agencies within the U.S. Government on the development of policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime. INL programs seek to reduce the entry of illegal drugs into the United States; and to minimize the impact of international crime on the United States and its citizens. http://www.state.gov/j/inl/
The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is a regional security partnership between the United States and the nations of the Caribbean to combat the drug trade and other transnational crimes that threaten regional security. The United States, CARICOM member nations, and the Dominican Republic are improving citizen safety throughout the Caribbean by working together to: substantially reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and security, and promote social justice.
From left: Deputy Commissioner, Royal Bahamas Police Force, Quinn McCartney; Ms. Joanne Richardson, NCSC Senior Program Manager, Kimberley Ann Moore, AUSA; U.S. Chargè d’Affaires a.i. Lisa Johnson; Ms. Debra Graves, Public Defender; Permanent Secretary, Cynthia Gibbs; Judge William Arthur Webb and Mrs. Cleopatra Christie, Consultant in the Attorney General’s Office.