Alternative Sentencing Law discussed

Electronic tagging, curfews, supervision orders and serving jail time intermittently are among the alternatives to prison sentences waiting to come into force in Cayman.

A presentation of the Alternative Sentencing Law 2006 is being held over a two-day period this week to familiarise government agencies and interested parties of the aspects of the law, which would commence once signed by the Governor in Cabinet.

At the launch of the presentation Tuesday, Governor Stuart Jack insisted he would only sign the commencement order of the law once he was satisfied that all necessary preparations had been done to implement it to the satisfaction of public confidence.

‘Alternative sentences should not be seen as a soft approach but rather one that addresses the issues that result in offending behaviours and therefore one that maximises the chances of rehabilitation in cases that are considered suitable for non-custodial sentence,’ Mr. Jack said.

He said the law, which he called one of the most important pieces of legislation he had signed in this time in Cayman, did not have to be implemented all at once, but could be done gradually.

Referring to electronic tagging, a monitoring device attached usually to an offender’s ankle that keeps track of the whereabouts of a person subject to a curfew order, the Governor said: ‘A priority may indeed be to put in place electronic tagging in order to reassure the public and to make the new law work, but we must not get fixated with this technological aspect alone. The human dimension is fundamental.

‘We must have people in place, in the Department of Community Rehabilitation and other key services, and to ensure those people are well trained and armed with clear guidance.’

The need for an alternative sentencing law has been highlighted by the fact that the Cayman Islands has one of the world’s largest per capita prison populations, leading to serious overcrowding at Northward Prison, the Governor said, but he added that serious criminals, especially violent ones, would have to be incarcerated.

Several government, counselling and enforcement agencies will play a role in the implementation and administration of the new law, including police, Department of Community Rehabilitation, Department of Counselling Services, the courts, the Department of Employment Relations, the prison service, Department of Children and Family Services, the 911 service, and Internal/External Affairs.

Guest speaker at the event, Mr. Fergus McNeill, deputy head (Research) at the Glasgow School of Social Work in Scotland and a network leader of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, told the audience that the focus of his work has been to find out how and why people re-offend.

He commended the new Cayman legislation, which empowers the courts to pass non-custodial sentencing in cases where previously there had been no alternatives.

Mr. McNeill said a strong, cohesive community with enduring values had a large part to play in whether such alternative sentencing measures would be successful here.

The presentation began Tuesday and continued Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel Resort.