‘Hooked on helping’

‘Hooked on helping’ was the phrase used by James Myles to describe young offenders who discover the satisfaction of doing something meaningful after receiving a community service order (CSO) from a court.

Such an order can be a new way to challenge young people’s energies, said Mr. Myles, Youth Services Coordinator in the Department of Youth and Sports.He had worked with offenders who completed their required hours of service, then called back later to see what was going on.

Representatives from organisations that provide placements for the community service programme

Community Service Co-ordinators Blonde Uzzle and Ricardo Sealy (first row, second and third from right), call for a group photo with representatives from organisations that provide placements for the community service programme.
Photo: Carol Winker

‘They want to be part of something,’ he observed. CSOs can get young people ‘hooked on helping.’

Mr. Myles made his remarks during an acknowledgement social hosted by the Probation Aftercare Unit last Thursday at the South Sound Community Centre. Guests of honour were representatives of organisations that have provided placements for offenders under CSOs.

Other guests included Magistrate Nova Hall, and Marilyn Conolly from the Ministry of Health and Human Resources.

Some of the honourees were moved to come to the microphone and share their experiences.

One of the most humorous contributions came from Glenna Boase, representing the Golden Age Retirement Home. She said staff and patients had formed a bond with some of the people who worked there under court order.

They stay in touch, she reported, and can be called on in any emergency, such as changing a flat tyre. The home sometimes has a large number of iguanas around ‘and we’re afraid of iguanas,’ Ms Boase admitted. So one of the former CSO workers is contacted; he comes out, catches the iguanas and removes them from the property.

Roberta Gordon spoke of the difficulty in getting consistent volunteers at the Sunrise Adult Training Centre, so CSO workers are much appreciated. Sometimes they don’t work out, she acknowledged. But it was rewarding to watch others develop ‘and later you see them out in the community helping others.’

Clifton Gayle spoke on behalf of John Gray Memorial Church, another placement provider. He said he was glad the church had been asked to get involved. ‘The church should be the place where everyone feels welcome.’ He expressed gratitude for the privilege of being involved.

Acknowledging the certificates and gifts of appreciation received on behalf of the Cayman Islands Maritime Foundation, Jerris Miller said he was embarrassed to be thanked. ‘We should thank you or the assistance you have given,’ he told the community service co-ordinators.

He said the foundation and the Catboat Club were pleased with the calibre of people they had received and would be happy to continue as a placement provider.

The acknowledgement social, the first of its kind, was part of Probation and Parole Week, designed to help the public understand the work of the Probation and Aftercare Unit.

The Community Service Programme is just one part of that work, but an important part, said Teresa Echenique-Bowen, PAU Manager.

Work done by an offender under a court order helps the rehabilitative process, she said. It enables the offender to give back to the community. ‘Sometimes the offender thinks he is nothing and doesn’t know if he can go on,’ she commented.

Organisations that agree to provide a placement for offenders give them not just work but encouragement. Sometimes they give guidance along the way. This arrangement benefits not only the organisation and the offender, but society as a whole, she indicated.

With the assistance of Community Service Co-ordinators Ricardo Sealy and Blonde Uzzle, Mrs. Echenique-Bowen presented awards to representatives of organisations that have been part of the programme, some from as long ago as 2000.

They are: Boatswain Bay Presbyterian Church, Cayman Hospice Care, Cayman Islands Cancer Society, Chamber of Commerce, Humane Society.

Cayman Islands Maritime Foundation, Seafarers Association, Turtle Farm, Cayman Traditional Art.

CAYS Foundation, Community District Action Committees in Savannah/ Newlands and West Bay, Bodden Town resident activists Darlene Ebanks and Twyla Vargas, North Side Beautification Committee, North Side Public Library.

Dept. of Environmental Health, Dept. of Youth and Sports, Frances Bodden Girls Home, Golden Age Retirement Home, John Gray After School Programme, John Gray Memorial Church.

National Gallery, National Trust, NCVO Foster Care Home, Richard Arch Children’s Centre, Pedro Castle, Public Works Dept.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Sunrise Adult Centre, T E McField Centre, Pines Retirement Home.

Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, Women’s Quilt Ministry, Women’s Resource Centre, Police Community Beat Officer for Windsor Park.

A Community Service Order is a sentencing option available to the courts for convicted persons 17 or older.

The order requires the convicted person to perform unpaid work for a specified number of hours – between 40 and 240.

The court will not make such an order unless it is satisfied, after considering a report by a probation officer, that the person is suitable for such an order.

The court will not make an order unless it is notified that arrangements do exist for work to be performed.

Making those arrangements is part of the work of Community Service Co-ordinators, who are in contact with both government agencies and private sector organisations willing to take on the responsibility of providing work for someone under a Community Service Order. Such entities are referred to as placement providers.