Housing inmates proves costly


    In response to inquiries by the Caymanian Compass, Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service has revealed that the cost per place per prisoner in the Territory from 2009 to 2010 is just over $56,000.

    The methodology used to arrive at the cost per place per prisoner is the total recurrent budget, less insurance and depreciation.

    There is no insurance for prisoners’ medical coverage; therefore, the full cost for this is borne by the service.

    The majority of the costs included are fixed, in addition to personnel costs, which consist of pension and health care.

    Some examples of what it costs to house a prisoner in 2009 to 2010 in the Cayman Islands are: Food costs for prisoners – $6 per day or $2 per meal; clothing – $227 per prisoner per year; and health care – $357,980.95.

    According to the United Kingdom Parliament, 3 March 2010 House of Commons Hansard and Bromley’s Prison Fact File, December 2010, the average cost per place per prisoner in the UK from 2009 to 2010 was £45,000 for adults (roughly CI$59,500) and £60,000 (about CI$79,400) for juveniles or young prisoners and does not include health care or education.

    On the Cayman Islands Government website’s Security and Rehabilitation page, the Chief Secretary of the Cayman Islands, George McCarthy, said, “Rehabilitation is costly. But the cost of not rehabilitating prisoners is actually far higher.”

    A statement from the Prison Service said the service is continually searching for improved efficiencies to reduce cost.

    One step toward reducing costs might be alternative sentencing, which lawmakers introduced recently in the form of ankle monitors.

    While the cost of housing an inmate is $56,545, electronic tagging for “low risk” offenders and instituting a monitored curfew costs $5,000.

    The Cayman Islands puts a much higher percentage of its population in prison than most other countries, according to the Government website, which cited Cayman as being in the top five countries in the world in this regard.

    The Security and Rehabilitation page also says that most prisoners leaving prison do commit another crime, with the rate of recidivism in the Cayman Islands being over 70 per cent.

    According to the Economic and Statistics Office, the per capita gross domestic product for the Cayman Islands in 2009 was roughly $46,000.

    There was $10,743,181 allocated in the Government’s 2009/2010 budget for the Prison Service, while $10,982,961 has been allocated for the service in the 2010/2011 budget.


    Inmates at Northward Prison.
    Photo: File


    1. I would question the quote from the Chief Secretary, George McCarthy – Rehabilitation is costly. But the cost of not rehabilitating prisoners is actually far higher.

      My question would be what rehabilitation takes place in prison? If a person is detained for anything up to a year I would suggest there is very little, if any, opportunity to rehabilitate or does the Chief secretary think that simply locking someone up in Northwood or Fairbanks is rehabilitation?

      Effective rehabilitation can be started in prison with educational opportunities or where the prisoner is required to confront the reasons for their offending – anger management, misuse of drugs/alcohol, literacy or numeracy issues, lack of skills, etc. It maybe that it is medical treatment that is needed, particularly in relation to mental health (there is a powerful body of evidence that suggests that inmates are likely to suffer from diagnosable mental health issues).

      The really effective rehabilitation then carries on into the community when the offender is released. Just opening the door and kicking them back out to their former ways just does not work.

      Post custodial rehabilitation is about dealing with issues that have been a factor in offending – housing, family breakdown, lack of work – while continuing any programmes to address alcohol or drugs misuse and continuing to monitor their mental health. It also includes provisions that place onerous responsibilities on the offender to change their ways or risk being returned to prison.

      So, one way of reducing the overall cost AND increasing the effectiveness of rehabilitation is to reduce the period of imprisonment and add to it a requirement to engage with post custodial rehabilitation. Of course this will require significant investment in post custodial rehabilitation services but that cost is more than offset by the reduction in costs for locking people up. It can also engage with community and church groups who might wish to be involved in a very positive way in making the islands a safer place to live. This has the dual advantages of further reducing costs from the public purse and providing the opportunity for offender and community to work together to repair any harm their offending has caused.

      I am aware that there already tentative steps in these directions and I applaud the efforts of those who are involved. However, to suggest, as the Compass appears to, that the increased use of electronic tagging without any other rehabilitation provision demonstrates a lack of awareness of the innovative and effective opportunities that exist to break the cycle of offending.

      To be in the top five countries in the world for imprisonment is not a badge of honour and the proof of that lies in the 70% rate or reoffending. Perhaps looking at what other countries do with lower prisoner rates and lower reoffending might indicate how these issues can be tackled.

      Before any of the lock em up / hang em high brigade start yelling, I am not for one second suggesting that dangerous offenders (from whom the public needs to be protected) or those who have committed heinous crimes should not be sent to prison for long periods of time – this is about dealing with relatively low levels of offending where the crime is less serious and the chances of effective rehabilitation are higher.

      Simply throwing more money at incarceration without it being seen as part of an overall strategy to deal with offending is short sighted, ineffective and very, very expensive.

      To imagine that incarceration is another name for rehabilitation demonstrates a lack of knowledge and understanding, a failing that is all too evident within the leadership of the Islands who appear, sometimes, to look for quick fixes (that ultimately dont work) and which almost always require increased spending without any indication of effectiveness.

      The Beachbum

    2. If you think the cost of education is high, try ignorance. Derek Bok Harvard President 1971-1991 and I believe Roy Bodden, the current President of UCCI when he was an MLA in our Parliment said something like, If you think the cost of educating a child is expensive, take a look at the cost of incarceration and crime on a society.
      Clearly, with a 70% recidivism, rehabilitation is not occurring. Great article and cost comparison Mr. Wilson.

    3. What ever happened to closing the womans prison and sending them elsewhere because there are so few? Judging by the newspapers and the increase in crime, there are going to be more prisoners arriving soon. Doesnt it make sense to outsource the violent offenders to either Jamaica or Cuba?

    4. In cases where it was proven beyond any reasonable doubt that a person committed murder via DNA, etc (i.e. Estella Scott) then they should be given a lethal injection within 1 year. To keep these scumbags alive for 40 more years ( 40 x 56,000 = 2,240,000.00 ) is a complete waste of the Governments money. Put the 2 million plus per prisoner into education and training programmes for our youth.

    5. Two points Cayman Mermaid:

      1. While DNA is pretty reliable it is NOT 100% reliable and most convictions rely on less reliable evidence. Perhaps you would like to think about the number of miscarriages of justice where people were found guilty of murder beyond all reasonable doubt and were subsequently found to be innocent. Under your regime you would have blood on your hands.

      2. If you want this to happen, please petition your political leaders to negotiate full independence from the UK as this will not be possible while you remain a British Overseas Territory in view of the UK having legislation in place on Human Rights

      The Beachbum

    6. Theres something to be said for the fact that Caymans prison is generally referred to as Northward Hotel. Its an indicator in our society. There are many people in there that actually get a better deal than if they were on the outside. They get three square meals a day there, and opportunity to play sport, go to a gym, create things with their hands (woodwork) and watch TV. For many of the inmates, its a somewhat preferred existence to what they came out of. Sad for the individuals – but hardly a great deterrent for committing a crime.

      In the past when Caymanians were sent to Jamaica, due to Cayman not having an adequate prison facility, the conditions were harsher and the inmates were further away from from family and friends. Crime was less.

      Shorter-term but harsher sentences seem to work better in many countries. France for example. The sentences are very short, relatively, but the consequences are very harsh indeed. Conditions are dark, uncomfortable, small – the bare necessities to survive. But after 6 months, the prisoners never EVER want to return to such a place – and rehabilitation afterwards is very high.

      However, with such consequences awaiting an individual, the punishment should certainly fit the crime. So, therefore, much more care must be administered in this area. The dollars saved overall should be filtered here.

      Incentives and consequences – they are the basis for organising human behaviour one way or another.

    7. Why dont they just deduct a percentage of meals and medical from their pensions?! This would also serve as a small punishment and another reason not to go to jail.

    8. Glad to know the crime-committing prisoners are living better than I am. *sarcasm*

      What a joke, thats not a prison, thats a hotel. AC, internet access, television, 3 square meals a day, access to a gym…whereas I have to go out and work, and its my tax dollars providing this for these criminals. I can think of a dozen ways that my money could be MUCH better spent.

    9. Yes, it may sound crazy and it is possible that these criminals have never held a job. Though just incase, you dont live in Cayman and need me to explain this to you- employees are required to pay into pensions. so no matter how large or small these may be- may be we should deduct from them? why not? Its only ment to serve as a pool for them to draw from after reitrement- for food, housing and medical. Instead of the govt paying for it while their in jail- they should pick up the tab! and umm, alloverl- your right, there are much better causes to spend this money on (thats a whole new subject)- however, you have to remember- we dont pay taxes here. but we do pay into our pensions.

    10. Most Companies in the US dont even have Pensions, Its unreal that a man can sit in prison and the government puts money into a retirement plan for a prisoner. When hard working individuals have to work for every penny they get and have to pay for retirement benefits. What is it that they are retiring from a life of Crime, and people try to say that Crime doesnt pay.

      These guys need to be making license plates or something that will bring money in. Maybe start a recycling business and have the prisoners separate the islands garbage.

      How awful it must be to eat for free, lay on your butt under the AC with no CUC bill. Watch TV with no Satellite or Cable bill, access the internet and take hot showers for free. This is a better life than some people pay for.

    11. Squint and look at the photo. A guard, a guy with shirt untucked, another with his pants falling down, people milling around under a cabana – almost looks like a local school!

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