Today’s Editorial for August 21: Time for alternative sentencing

Once Governor Stuart Jack signs alternative sentencing legislation the Cayman Islands will have a better way to deal with certain law breakers.

It is envisaged under the Alternative Sentencing Law that the population of Northward prison could be greatly reduced.

Estimates are that there are more than 220 prisoners at Northward; that’s 30 per cent more than the jail was designed to hold.

Prison overcrowding is bad on so many levels, one of which is the negative impact on inmates because there are fewer opportunities for rehabilitation because of a lack of supervision.

Too, inmates are confined to their cells longer, causing greater tensions between prisoners and prison staff.

Building a new prison isn’t the answer.

Finding alternative sentences is.

For the past two days those in the Cayman Islands most closely associated with prisoners and the courts met to go over the Alternative Sentencing Law, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly in 2006. All the law needs now is for the Governor’s signature.

Those who receive alternative sentencing won’t be getting a slap on the wrist under the new law.

Instead it is hoped that the law will help maximise the chances of rehabilitation for non-custodial offenders.

It’s doubtful that the law will be fully implemented all at once.

One of the sentencing options involves electronic tagging, which involves prisoners’ wearing an ankle monitoring device that would keep track of the offender’s whereabouts.

Another possibility of alternative sentencing could involve a variety of ways to keep tabs on inmates, allowing some to work at jobs during thee day to return to lockup at night.

Alternative sentencing can also help ensure that addicts get proper treatment and counselling.

What has to happen now is training for those who will be over the alternative sentencing programme.

It is our hope that the men and women who mete out justice from the courts will take the alternative sentencing legislation into account when handing down sentences to certain offenders.

Not only will they help keep the prison population down, but they may also help a few offenders get their lives turned around in the right direction.

Alternative sentencing can only help what has become a bad situation.

We encourage Governor Jack to sign the law at his earliest convenience.