As readers may know from a recent article in the Caymanian Compass, the Cayman Contractors Association visited Northward Prison to inspect the new Hurricane Shelter.
While we were there, we additionally asked if we could inspect the other buildings.
The Commissioner of Corrections, Mr. William Rattray, was very accommodating and we were granted free access to all buildings. To say we were astonished at the condition of the buildings would be an understatement.
Although there are several new structures at Northward that are well built and in excellent condition, many of the older structures are badly in need of repair and some, in fact, have been condemned by a Government engineer and now stand empty.
Some of the older buildings were poorly constructed. Plaster is falling off walls and ceilings, exposing steel reinforcing rods that have been rusting from within for years. Cracks run across upper story floors where structural materials are giving way.
The prison hospital is a deteriorated 40-foot trailer.
Cell blocks that were burned by a small number of inmates in the riots several years ago are still unrepaired and are a hazard to all prisoners, whether they were involved or not.
All of these buildings present a hazard. In some cases, they also pose a security problem.
Northward has a small, but inadequate maintenance budget.
At present 80 per cent of the inmates at Northward are Caymanians.
The CCA has high praise for Mr. Rattray and his team in their programme to construct new, safe prison buildings, utilising inmate labour. This not only cuts costs dramatically, it also helps to prepare inmates for the working world so that they are less likely to return to Northward.
One of the new buildings was estimated to cost some $400,000 and was built by the inmates for $47,000, an extraordinary price that could not be matched by any contractor.
A new prison is desperately needed and both the team to coordinate the construction and the workforce are in place now. We have only to decide whether the construction is a priority.
As building contractors, those of us who make up the Cayman Contractors Association would surely enjoy a contract to build a new prison; however, for the sake of Cayman’s taxpayers and for the sake of the inmates, we believe that the contractor for the new prison should be the prison itself. They’ve proven what they can do and they have our support.
Cayman Contractors Association