Prison service takes major stride forward

In a major step towards preparing a workforce that can help rehabilitate prisoners, Her Majesty’s Prison Service has introduced a vocational qualification in custodial care as a requisite for all trainee prison officers.

The qualification is to be achieved within the first two years of the trainees’ service, Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation Dr. Bill Rattray explained in a press release.

If they get through, the recruits will become full-fledged prison officers.

The on-the-job training, coaching and formal assessment will take place in different sections of the prison, including custodial and residential care, operations, and human resources. Currently, the officers are being trained to use sophisticated risk and needs assessment tools, and to facilitate behavioural programmes.

‘We are on a journey towards achieving correctional excellence, in order to serve the people of the Cayman Islands. Our purpose is to reduce reoffending, and thereby reduce victims of crime,’ Dr. Rattray noted.

He stressed that the professional integrity and skill expected of prison officers in modern, democratic societies is similar to that expected of teachers or nurses.

‘These professions require transferable professional qualifications,’ he said. A recognised set of skills distinguishes correctional officers as professionals in their own right, and ‘that’s what we are doing here,’ he added.

Twelve recruits, who came onboard the Prison Service in April, are undergoing the training, led by unit managers Edward Callacher, Percival Williams and Ricardo Lashley. They’ve come from such backgrounds as the police, armed forces, business and industry, and represent various nationalities including Caymanian, Jamaican and Filipino.

The unit managers were recently trained as assessors at the Scottish Prison Service College. As a result, the Prisons will be able to conduct internal assessments of competence, with the Scottish Qualifications Authority as the external verification body.

‘The standards will underpin everything we do in human resource development, from recruitment and training through to competence assessment,’ stated the Prisons’ Staff Training Manager Dave Hart, who has since returned to the UK.

The Prison Service will work with the University College of the Cayman Islands, for that institution to acquire the necessary competency so that future courses can be awarded locally, Dr Rattray said.

With the training under their belt, it would be a misnomer to call prison officers ‘guards,’ a term that conjures up negative images from movies.

‘The situation here in Cayman is far removed from that stereotype and thankfully so,’ he commented.

Uniformed prison staff, he noted, ‘practise dynamic security, and balance the key custodial processes of custody, order, care and opportunities.’

Dr Rattray is a former UK board member of Skills for Justice, which determines and implements occupational standards across the UK justice sector, in conjunction with employers. Justice sector employers include prisons, probation, police, immigration, customs, prosecution and courts staff.

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