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Arrest and Detention

One of the most important tasks of the Consular Section is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law.

If American citizens are arrested or detained while in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the local authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy in Nassau without delay, and officials from the embassy or consulate must be allowed access to the American citizen prisoner upon request.

U.S. consular officers can and do monitor conditions in local prisons and can protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so. We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded due process under local laws.   We can help the prisoner communicate with family or friends back in the United States, and can assist the prisoner with contacting a local attorney. 

While in The Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law -- especially relating to drugs and firearms -- can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and/or fines. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.

Privacy Act - The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad. As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

Additional Information about Consular Notification and Access

Further Information for Americans Arrested Abroad.