Probation, Parole Week continues

This is Probation and Parole Week. Each day the Caymanian Compass will carry an article explaining what Cayman Islands Department of Probation and Aftercare does.

Ms Evalee McField and Mr. Benjamin Wright

Ms Evalee McField, accounts officer and
Mr. Benjamin Wright, executive officer. Photo: Tammie C. Chisholm

Foundation years – 1963 – 1968

Over the years the Department of Probation and Aftercare has undergone significant changes but has continued to grow, develop and provide essential services toward rehabilitation in the Cayman Islands.

The late Mrs. Joyce Sybil Hylton who pioneered the establishment of the Probation Services in the Cayman Islands is widely regarded within the profession as the Mother of Probation. Ms Joyce, acting as an advocate, not only lobbied the government but sparked public attention to change the judicial proceedings for juveniles. She was incensed that while observing a court session a juvenile was being treated like an adult criminal offender in open court.

Her concerns did not go unnoticed as in 1963 the government entrusted Ms Joyce with the responsibility to oversee the first Probation Service within the Cayman Islands.

In that same year the Probation of Offenders’ Law {1963} was enacted and a principal probation officer was appointed to organise, manage and supervise probation officers to carry out their duties as prescribed by law. With the passage of this law adult probation services were offered to the courts and the community.

In 1964 the Juvenile Offenders’ Law provided for the establishment of a Juvenile Court to deal with the legal procedures for the administration of justice for minors who were deemed to be in need of care and protection and those in contravention of the country’s laws.

With the establishment of the probation services under the ministry responsible for social services, public and welfare issues as stipulated in the Poor Persons’ Relief Law were also placed under the portfolio of the Probation Services. These duties involved the assessment and allocation of public funds to the needy, destitute and sick.

Social inquiry reports were written for both the Grand and Summary Courts and adult offenders were placed under the supervision of the Probation Services. Voluntary services, which evolved from the Probation Services’ legal mandate, involved counselling, advice and referrals to other government agencies to help meet the needs of the individual or family.

For almost two decades all these prescribed duties, as stipulated by law as well as other social work matters, were carried out under the auspices of the government entity known as the Probation and Welfare Office.

Early professional development years – 1968 – 1984

In 1968, Mrs. Gay Jackson joined the Probation and Welfare Office bringing with her additional skills to complement those of Mrs. Hylton’s, thereby improving the quality and effectiveness of the services offered. In 1974 Mrs. Jackson was promoted to the post of Assistant Secretary in the Portfolio of Social Services. She however continued to carry out her role as probation and welfare officer until her replacement was found.

The Lockhead Report, done by Mr. Lockhead and his wife, (overseas advisers) on behalf of the government resulted in the implementation of the Department 0f Social Development. On their recommendation to strengthen the Probation and Welfare Office with additional staff Mr. Steven E. Smith was hired by the Government in 1974, as the first expatriate social worker in a long successive line of many others. Mr. Smith continues to give immeasurable service in the capacity of Probation Officer.

Mrs. Hylton continued to offer invaluable service to the agency thorough, her personal knowledge, practical application and orientation to the Caymanian culture and the islands’ social problems.

She also had an endearing personality, which made the office conducive for working. This mutual and reciprocal co-worker relationship continued until Mrs. Hylton’s retirement in February 1982.

As a result of major restructuring, of all related social services within the Cayman Islands, in 1982, the Probation and Welfare Office was subsumed under the large expanding Department of Social Services. Mrs. Gay Jackson became the first director of Social Services.

She was responsible to implement the organisational plan to manage all the various Government social services entities. Despite this, the Probation Service never lost its identity and purpose, i.e. to primarily service the courts and the supervision of adult offenders.

In 1983, Mrs. Angela Martins, took over the reins as the director of Social Services. Under her management the concept of work specialisation was introduced. Each social worker’s professional area of interest and case work strengths were assessed for the quality provision of services.

This decision allowed for the internal development of the probation services. A designated team of social workers was now able to focus on their role as probation officers, dealing solely with the legal mandate given to them under the various laws.

Pivotal and maintenance years – 1985 – 1998

In 1985 Mrs. Deborah Powell-Prendergast was transferred from the Social Services Department to Probation and Welfare Office. She brought a wealth of experience, which enhanced the services offered.

Governor Peter Lloyd, as head of the Civil Service, in February 1985, seconded Mr. Steven E. Smith, from the Probation and Welfare Office to the Judicial Department. This resulted in a daily physical presence of a probation officer at the Court’s Office.

All court referrals, which included pre-sentence investigation, legal aid socio-financial assessments and supervision of adult offenders placed on conditional release, were referred directly to the court duty officer. The Community Service programme remained the responsibility of Social Services for the time being.

The newly implemented Prisoner Release on Licence Programme (Parole) was added to the responsibility of the court duty officer as the Governor sent all pre-screened eligible applicants for parole directly for social work processing and risk assessment before referral to the Parole Board for its final recommendations. Both probation and parole supervisory services were expanded and intensified with the implementation of a weekly reporting system of attendance.

In 1990 the Attendance Order Supervision Programme was developed 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 Department.

Over the 13 years that parole and probation services were administered from the court’s building, the clerk of courts, who had oversight for the Probation Office, entrusted the probation officers to carry out their duties on a professional basis. The Probation Office operated on an autonomous basis for all practical intent and purpose.

More history tomorrow.

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