A juvenile justice centre is being proposed for George Town on the site of a trailer park that is still housing a few displaced residents from 2004’s Hurricane Ivan.
The site – in a heavily wooded area south of Fern Circle and west of Fairview Road – was revealed at a public meeting Tuesday night by Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam to about 25 people who came to ask questions about the project.
Chief Officer for Mr. Adam’s ministry, Dorine Whittaker, said the Fairbanks-area site was proposed following discussions with a Missouri, USA-based consulting firm that advised keeping younger offenders closer to their families. A site in East End was originally proposed by the government.
“For the kids and their families to go back and forth to the East End site, there’s nothing out there,” Ms Whittaker said.
She said only a handful of individuals are living on the Fairbanks trailer site and that they frankly should have been moved to alternative housing some time ago. Some residents there have already been moved to Lyndhurst Road or into various government-subsidised apartments, and the remaining residents had been given flyers and other information about the pending move, she said. The Cayman Islands is required by the 2009 Constitution to construct a juvenile detention facility where younger offenders can be housed away from older prisoners, in line with international human rights practices. That must occur by November 2013, according to the governing document.
However, Mr. Adam said simply building a new prison where juvenile offenders will be “warehoused” is not an option. He said government officials have spent considerable time studying details of Missouri’s juvenile offender programme, which has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country, and have decided to go with what is often referred to as Missouri’s “softer” approach toward youth offenders.
“The ministry has been working toward a shift in practice,” Mr. Adam said. “We’re striving to rehabilitate those who have fallen on the wrong side of the law. Remember, these kids will return to the community one day and will live amongst you and I. What kind of person do you want in the community?”
According to project designer Sean Evans with the Public Works Department, the facility off Fairview Road will be broken up into two residential “cottages” in the back of the main building with a secure fence surrounding the entire area. The fence is designed like a chain-link but with smaller links so it cannot be scaled.
The main building consists of a visitors’ centre, a kitchen, a learning centre/library and a “secure unit” for juvenile offenders who need closer monitoring – usually those who have committed more serious offences.
The idea, based on the Missouri juvenile offender programme, is that the young people who must attend the facility as part of their sentence should not be locked in solitary confinement unless it’s absolutely necessary for their safety and the safety of others. Most activities will be scheduled in 10-person groups and daily education sessions will be held, just like school. Mark Steward of the Missouri Youth Services Institute said his operation holds daily classes for youth offenders between 8am and 3.30pm, and beyoond that, the youths have scheduled activities “from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed”. “Staff is always there with the kids; we don’t allow the opportunity for problems to occur when we’re not there,” he said.
Most disciplinary issues are handled within the peer groups at the Missouri youth facilities.
“Sometimes when the group is doing real good and one kid is acting out, the easiest thing to do is grab that kid and take him out [of the room],” said Missouri programme director Dr. Pili Robinson. “What we say in our model is … you spill a drink on the kitchen floor, you clean it up right here in the kitchen.”
Dr. Robinson said the Missouri facility is also specially designed to eliminate out-of-the-way areas where bullying can occur. “Kids that feel safe are going to feel safe to explore the emotional part of what’s going on in their lives,” he said
This rough outline of the Missouri model of juvenile corrections is what the Cayman Islands intends to use in its new juvenile rehabilitation facility. Ms Whittaker hopes the George Town project can be completed by the end of 2012.
“We didn’t want to build another prison, based on what we’ve seen in research [about] what can happen to young people,” Whittaker said. “This facility is for people under 17, it’s not for hard-core criminals.”
Ms Whittaker says Cayman will also begin on a more comprehensive approach to juvenile corrections, involving the Education Department, the prison system and various ministries.
“We are spending money right now…and if it was working, it wouldn’t be in the state it’s in right now,” she said.