On a sweltering afternoon at Northward Prison last week, the air was festive and hopes were high at the official opening of the new library and computer lab.
Inmates, prison staff, government officials, private donors and volunteers packed the tent outside the library to accommodate everyone attending the grand opening.
In his address, Minister of Education Rolston Anglin said the library and computer labs are important because they played a big part in an overall programme to rehabilitate prisoners and reduce recidivism.
‘If we can boost an individual’s employability in this way, we can also reduce their likelihood to re-offend, which in turn is a critical element in managing the growth of our prison population,’ said Mr. Anglin.
He added that the library and computer lab are important support services in the prison’s education programmes which also include reading, mathematics, liberal arts, technical subjects and IT.
A library also plays an important role in improving communication and life skills, according prisons commissioner Bill Rattray.
‘Many prisoners discover books and reading for the first time in prison,’ said Mr. Rattray. ‘Some become avid readers, especially since there are few other pastimes available. Reaching out to prisoner ‘school failures’ and finding undiscovered talents through imaginative projects such as the ‘Writer From Within’ encourages creativity,’ he said.
It also provides some prisoners the opportunity to train as library assistants to develop their work skills and enable them to experience responsibility, said Mr. Rattray.
‘These facilities are now a popular and integral part of the regime helping to prepare prisoners for release by offering them a civic facility for leisure, education and information,’ he added.
A team of inmates consisting of carpenters, plumbers, painters and electricians did the bulk of the work to transform an old cellblock into a library and computer lab, according to the inmate librarian Mitchell McCoy.
Mr. McCoy said there were approximately 5,000 titles within the library including books and publications on science, culture, law, mathematics, self-help, and fiction.
About one-third of the prison population had signed up for library cards by the time it opened, a strong signal that there is a high demand for these services.
Most of the books were donated by schools, private companies and individuals, including the Cayman Islands Law School, St. Matthews Cayman Islands Medical School, International College of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands Humane Society and Cayman Public Library.
A private individual from The Atlantic Group donated 20 new desktop computers for the lab. The computer lab also has four printers and Computer Comfort Zone set up the network system.
Female inmates from Fairbanks Prison, as well as young male offenders at Eagle House, will also be able to use the prison library.