A government plan to build a facility to house juvenile offenders and other troubled youth has been applauded by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee.
Their endorsement of the plan comes less than seven months after the HRC released a report outlining cases where children had wound up in adult jails in Cayman, in contravention of numerous international human rights agreements.
‘The HRC welcomes the Government’s recently revealed plans to develop a secure juvenile detention facility … given that the Cayman Islands remains in breach of a number of international human rights conventions in relation to our treatment of juvenile offenders,’ the HRC said in a statement.
The facility is expected to accommodate up to 18 boys and girls and will include a separate drug rehabilitation wing.
No decision has been taken on where the facility will be located, but sites in North Side and East End are both under consideration.
The Ministry of Health and Human Services has devoted $1 million toward the facility in the forthcoming financial year’s budget, with further money to be set aside in future budgets.
Corporate Communications Manager Kafara Augustine said the total cost of the project and a timeframe for its completion would not be clear until the end of the planning and tendering process.
The Ministry hopes work will get under way as soon as possible, Ms Augustine said, ‘as there is a need in the community for a purpose-built youth facility that will enhance rehabilitation through various therapeutic programmes.’
In its November report, the HRC documented the cases of five young girls that had been tried and sentenced to prison terms without legal representation or advice in 2007.
The girls were detained at Fairbanks Prison for women; an outcome the HRC said put the girls at a greater risk of ‘criminal contamination’.
The HRC report had also criticised a mandatory sentencing regime in place in Cayman that it said is overly preoccupied with punishment and fails to comprehensively address the needs of youth.
‘Cayman’s mandatory sentencing regime … prevents the court from being able to take account of the circumstances of the offender, including their young age, nature of the offence and the juvenile’s circumstances and needs for other treatment,’ last week’s HRC statement noted.
The committee also welcomed a separate Ministry of Health and Human Service plan to construct a mental health facility for patients in need of long-term care.
‘The HRC hopes such a facility will be able to offer services to juvenile offenders as needed – as an alternative to incarceration, which is only an option of last resort and should only be imposed for the purposes of education and treatment of juvenile offenders,’ the statement said.
Consensus for change
Attorney General Sam Bulgin acknowledged the need for a dedicated juvenile detention facility in Cayman following the release of the HRC report last year (Caymanian Compass 10 December 2007).
He said cases of children ending up in adult jails in Cayman were not common, but added ‘whether it is five, 10, 15 children, it is too many.’
He described the circumstances of the five girl’s cases as neither representative nor typical, but added ‘nobody accepts that it is OK to lock children up in adult facilities.’
Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation William Rattray also spoke openly about the need for a juvenile detention facility following the HRC report (Compass, 29 November 2007).
The need was particularly acute for young girls, he said, because limited facilities at Fairbanks Prison mean young girls spend their time there alongside adult prisoners.
Cases of young male offenders being sent to Northward Prison were less common, he said, and the prison has the capacity to keep them separate from adults.
‘Prison is entirely the wrong place for young persons,’ Mr. Rattray told the Compass at the time.
‘Children have very different needs to adults and, obviously, prisons are geared to caring for adults and not caring for children.’