History of Probation Aftercare Unit

Mrs. Joyce Sybil Hylton, better known by all as Miss Joyce was not the only person doing community volunteer social work in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, but she was the only person who approached Government acting in the role of a social advocate relating to juveniles in trouble.

Her social network of friendships with professional social workers in Jamaica, her education and voluntary social work training sensitized her to the basic principles of social work practice.

As a result, Miss Joyce became greatly incensed on the occasion she visited a court in session and observed a juvenile being treated like an adult criminal offender on trial in open court.

That shocking revelation was the impetus that Miss Joyce needed to begin her personal outreach to Government and the community for change in the judicial treatment of juveniles.

In 1963 Miss Joyce was given the responsibility by Government to establish the first probation service.

The Probation of Offenders Law 1963 allowed for the appointment of a principal probation officer to organize and supervise the Probation Service in the Islands and a sufficient number of probation officers qualified by character and experience to carry out the duties prescribed under the law.

The Juvenile Offender Law 1964, provided inter alia for the establishment of a Juvenile Court and legal procedures for the administration of justice in dealings with children in need of care and protection and juveniles in contravention of the country’s laws in general.

With the establishment of the Probation Services under the Ministry responsible for social services and given the nature of work, public assistance and welfare issues under the Poor Persons’ (Relief) Law 1963 were also assigned to the Probation Services.

These duties involved the assessment and allocation process of public funds to needy, destitute and sick persons.

All these prescribed duties under the law and other social work matters were carried out under the auspices of the Government entity known as the Probation and Welfare Office for almost two decades.

It should be noted here for the sake of continuity, adult probation services offered to the courts and community at large commenced with the passage into law, the Probation of Offenders Law 1963 has continued to impact and affect persons older than 16 from the same time as the juvenile probation services were established.

Both the Summary and Grand Courts requested Social Inquiry Reports and adult offenders were placed under the supervision of the Probation Services.

Because of the supervisory authoritative component delegated to the probation officer by the law, once a Probation Order was made, the community at large perceives the Probation Service as a resource to problem-solving other of social issues.

Voluntary services evolved from Probation Services legal mandate, which involved counselling, advice and referrals to other Government agencies to help meet the needs of the individual or family.

Voluntary casework and family work were indicated as much as, if not more than, mandated probation work.

In 1968, Mrs Gay Jackson joined the Probation and Welfare Office bringing with her additional skills to complement those of Mrs. Hylton’s talents, thereby improving the quality and effectiveness of the services.

Even though Mrs. Jackson had been promoted to the post of assistant secretary in the Portfolio of Social Services in 1974, she continued to carry out her role of Probation and Welfare officer until her replacement was found.

The Lockhead Report , produced for Government by Mr. Lockhead and his wife, overseas advisors, advised on the implementation of social development.

One recommendation was to strengthen the Probation and Welfare Office with additional staff.

Mr. Steven E. Smith was interviewed by the Lockheads in 1973 and hired by Government in 1974.

As the first expatriate social worker in a long successive line of many others, Mrs. Hylton’s indoctrination was subtle and thorough.

Her personal knowledge, practical application and orientation as to Caymanian culture and the islands social problems was needed and well received by her new staff. This mutual and reciprocal co-worker relationship continued until Mrs. Hylton’s retirement in February 1982.

Subsumption years, 1982-1984

In 1982 the Probation and Welfare Office was subsumed under the large expanding Social Services umbrella as a result of major restructuring of all related social services.

Mrs. Gay Jackson was chosen to be the first director of Social Services whose job was to implement the organizational plan to manage all the various Government unique social services entities.

However, the Probation Service never lost its identity and purpose as it existed primarily for the courts’ use with the inevitable spin off effect of ancillary social case work as a result of being connected to the Social Services Department.

In 1983 Mrs. Angela Martins, took over the reins as the director of Social Services.

Among her many contributions to the development of Social Services, was the decision to separate the growing number of departmental social workers through the specialization of the department’s social work practice.

Each social worker’s professional area of interest and case work strengths was assessed for quality provision of services.

This decision allowed for the internal development of the probation services.

A designated team of social workers were now able to focus on and maintain the role of a probation officer dealing solely with the legal mandates placed on probation officers under the various laws.

Pivotal and maintenance Years, 1985-1998

There was a further division of labour in February 1985 when Governor Peter Lloyd as head of the Civil Service while acting in his discretion, seconded the longest serving remaining officer of the original Probation and Welfare Team, Steven E. Smith, to the Judicial Department. This action extended probation services directly to the Summary and Grand Courts with a probation officer on court duty on a daily basis.

All court referrals were made directly to the court duty officer, which included pre-sentence investigation, legal aid socio-financial assessments and supervision of adult offenders placed on a conditional release.

The Community Service programme remained the responsibility of Social Services for the time being.

The newly implemented Prisoner Release on Licence Programme (Parole) was also transferred at the same time.

The governor sent all pre-screened eligible applicants for parole directly to the court duty officer for social work processing and risk assessment before referral to the Parole Board for final recommendations.

That programme was further developed simultaneously with adult probation services.

Both areas of supervisory services were expanded and intensified with the implementation of a weekly reporting system of prescribed certification of attendance requirements for rehabilitative purposes.

Other procedures and formats were implemented over the 13 years that probation and parole services were administered out of the Probation Office at the Courts Building.

For example, the Attendance Order Supervision Programme was developed 1990 in direct response to the courts making such orders under The Misuse of Drugs Law (Law 13 Of 1973) in tandem with Community Service Orders supervised by staff from the Social Service Services Department for the time being.

The clerk of courts had oversight of the Probation Office but entrusted the probation officers to carry out their duties on a professional basis. The Probation Office operated on an autonomous basis for all practical intents and purposes.

Mrs. Deborah Powell-Prendergast was transferred from the Social Services Department in 1985 to assist in carrying out the above-mentioned duties of the Probation Office.

Restructuring and development of services years, 1998- 2003

The operations of the Probation Office remained in relative obscurity being recognized only as a subject under the ministry responsible for Social Services.

As a result of a review of the Judicial Department carried out by an overseas advisor in 1996, all the probation services along with the two probation officers were eventually transferred back under the umbrella of the Department of Social Services.

Director of the Department, Mrs. Deanna Look-Loy, assumed responsibility for the Probation Officers and its work.

However, the work of the Probation Office continued without much change until March 1998 when the actual completion of the restructuring of probation services culminated with the relocation of the Probation Office to the Probation/Aftercare Unit at its new site, the Inco Building in George Town.

The Department hired Mr. John Retson from Scotland as supervisor/senior probation officer to manage the newly restructured Probation Office.

Mr. Retson’s main asset was his well-developed managerial style as he assumed the responsibilities of the ongoing daily operations of the former probation office. There were no disruptions of the probation and parole services as all the case files and systematic body of retrievable knowledge, viz. policies, procedures, forms and formats were transferred from the Probation Office at the Courts’ Building to the Probation/Aftercare Unit at its new location.

In reality, the Probation Office became the Probation/Aftercare Unit.

Mr. Retson continued to build on and enhance the administrative structure he found in place.

In the area of social work, another contribution of Mr. Retson, was his skill in developing and organizing group work programmes viz, educational, tasks oriented, and training work shops. He followed up on his group work proposals in the role of facilitator.

He initiated programmes of Domestic Violence and Anger Management for groups of men.

He also rewrote the philosophical and procedural format of the Community Service Order Programme, which had been transferred as part of the restructuring of services.

Mrs. Blondie Uzzle was transferred from the Immigration Department to fill the new post of Community Service coordinator in 2000.

Her duties included the recruitment and retention of community work sponsors and supervision of persons placed on Court Community Service Orders.

While under Mr. Retson’s tenure of office, the Probation/Aftercare Unit and all its adult related rehabilitative services were completely separated from the managerial and administrative role of the Department of Children and Family Services in 2002.

The unit continued to fully operate on its own at its new office location, Millennium Plaza, Walkers Road responsible to the Ministry of Health and Human Services.

Defining, refining and designing of services years, 2003-2006

Upon the departure of Mr. Retson in 2003, Mrs. Teresa Echenique-Bowen was promoted to the position as manager of the Probation / Aftercare Unit.

Mrs. Bowen is the sixth head of the Probation Services since its inception.

Besides being the fifth Caymanian female in succession, she also has the distinction of being the first woman manager of the Probation/Aftercare Unit since its establishment as an independent Government entity.

Mrs. Bowen’s strong organizational skills have spearheaded broader public awareness and recognition of the Probation/Aftercare services through staff involvement as to its identity and purpose.

Forming and adopting a mission statement was fundamental and progressive in defining the agency’s role.

Also the redefining and expanding the Unit’s service outputs was an exercise in staff development as a team and a re-orientation as to social work principles.

During Mrs. Bowen’s short tenure of office in her present capacity, the Probation/Aftercare Unit has undergone a refining process, which includes the physical plant of operation, the office itself and administrative procedures to help generate a team spirit and a user friendly environment.

The public has access to knowledge for self-help, self-improvement and information on where to turn for additional professional help as a result of various organised reading materials such as broaches, pamphlets, etc. readily available at hand.

Mrs. Bowen’s commitment to maintaining and expanding probation and parole group work services is evident from the successful establishment of a long-term educationally based Men’s Non-Violent Programme aimed at male perpetrators of domestic violence.

Further staff team work is fostered through the interaction of the facilitators involved in the proposal and development of various group work programmes.

Of course Senior Probation Officer Cleviston Hunte, who joined the Unit in 1999, is instrumental in maintaining team coherence and compliance through his supervisory skills and knowledge of social work practice as it applies to probation and parole services.

Future years

Recently, management of the Probation/Aftercare Unit has completed a similar exercise as performed in 1984, viz, probation officers have been assigned as teams. One team is to address court referrals and other probationary matters while the other team is to address prison-parole matters.

Using the original date as a beginning bench mark of division of services until the actual formation of a Probation Services Unit, could it be that in about 20 years we will see the formation of a separate Government entity known as the Parole Unit?

Who will be the first Commissioner of Parole in 2020?

Additional reference

The Cayman Islands Annual Reports for the years 1975-1981 reflect the detailed type of work carried out in the Probation and Welfare Office from a statistical viewpoint under various major headings.

Comments are closed.