Prison strip search ‘was retaliatory’

A 4 December, 2010, strip search carried out on three teenage female inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Fairbanks was done in retaliation, an investigation by Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams’ office has found.

“I disagree with both the Deputy Governor Designate [Franz Manderson] and his Acting Chief Officer [Eric Bush} in this regard,” Ms Williams wrote in her findings on the case. “In my opinion, the strip search was retaliatory and there is evidence to support this.”

Two officers at Fairbanks were disciplined earlier this year following a December strip search of the three inmates in a prison dorm.

The search was made one day after a few of the inmates wrote complaint letters concerning certain prison policies and which also alleged laziness or inactivity on the part of some of the prison officers.

In her findings, commissioner Williams said she believed an apology made over the incident by government officials and disciplinary action taken against two prison officers was appropriate.

“[I] make no further recommendations in this regard,” she said.

Messrs. Manderson and Bush had earlier found that, while methods used by prison officers in effecting the 4 December search may have been unreasonable, they were not done in retaliation.

Two of the prisoners reported hearing one of the prison guards involved in the search stating “that’s what you get for writing a letter about officers” after the search was over.

This account is corroborated by statements from two prison officers taken in the course of the government’s review of the incident.

One prison officer stated during her interview: “Yes, [the prison officer] said ‘that’s what you get for writing letters about officers.’ I was in the shower area and heard that.”

A second officer, who was also on the scene, said: “I’m not sure how to put it word-for-word, but my understanding was that the search was brought on by some letters wrote and something was said about that’s what happens when you write letters.”

These statements, taken in the context of what occurred on 4 December, 2010, do not equate to proof that the search was done in retaliation, Mr. Manderson said in an earlier interview.

“It should be noted that the complaint letter was in relation to a policy decision made by prison management and was not directed at any prison officer,” Mr. Manderson wrote in a letter to one of the prisoners father’s in March. “This supports the findings of the investigation.

“In relation to the strip search … the investigating officer has determined that [the inmate] was not singled out or treated any differently from the other inmates in the same ‘pod’. The investigating officer has concluded that, on balance and in hindsight, other search techniques could have been deployed on 4 December, 2010, other than a strip search. However … there is no evidence to suggest that the strip search was capricious or retaliatory.”

According to a sworn affidavit filed by one of the inmates who was strip searched: “A large group of officers came to our dormitory and announced that they were going to strip search us for a cell phone. I refused to be strip searched. I was then forcibly held down, cuffed, strip searched, bruised and had my clothing ripped. Only after I was forcibly strip searched did one female officers go to my bed to retrieve the phone.”

One of the two cell phones found in the prison dorm was in plain sight on the inmate’s bed, according to the prisoner’s account of what happened.


  1. It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble. This is an humiliating day for the prison and great day for Freedom of Information.

  2. Catchandrelease

    Your comments are a good example of the divide that exists in Cayman in public opinion regarding human rights laws and their introduction into the Cayman judicial and law enforcement systems.

    It was not until 2006 when Minister Alden McLaughlin ratified the existing human rights treaties that the Cayman Islands had always been subject to, as a British and European Union territory, that the full human rights regime became applicable to Cayman again.

    Since the early 60s successive Cayman Islands governments had refused to ratify these treaties, a poor decision IMO, because institutionalised human rights abuse became entrenched in the Cayman Islands, although on a very subtle and covert level…particularly within the police and prison systems.

    Now that the full human rights regime is applicable to Cayman, some of the personnell within both these government institutions will have to be re-trained and re-educated on what the current standards of operation and behaviour are.

    The Complaints Commissioner is well within her jurisdiction to investigate this incident…her remit is to investigate any complaints that come across her desk regarding misconduct in any government dept. except the RCIPS. which falls directly under the Governor and Human Rights Commission.

    All the statutes of the European Human Rights laws now apply fully to the Cayman Islands; they will only become formalised when a Bill of Rights is introduced in Cayman next year, which will allow abuse cases to be tried in the Cayman courts…until then, every single government dept. in Cayman, very much including the police and prison depts. are subject to these laws and to prosecution in the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, if they break them.

    What the Complaints Commissioner is doing is trying to ward off an abuse case while the CI Government gets their department personnell up to speed on the new laws in place.

    This might seem unpalatable to many of the local population, given the levels of crime Cayman is now experiencing but it is for the courts to mete out punishment…excessive punishment while in prison is entirely and completely illegal under these laws and strip searches are only warranted in extreme circumstances involving weapons and known violent and dangerous prisoners…in Britain, these officer might very well have already be facing a court case and prosecution if the prisoners complaints were found to have merit by the human rights authorities.

    Police and prison personnell who do not understand and abide by these laws will cost the Cayman Islands Government massive amounts in human rights abuse cases brought before the courts if they do not quickly adapt to the laws in place.

  3. I wonder how the OCC arrived at their conclusions??? did they have all the evidence that Mr Manderson and Mr bush had?? Maybe the OCC will publish the details of their investigation. This is a really a great day for the prison and will probably deter others prisoners from bringing in cell phones and more importantly will bring about some fear in going to prison. At end the of the day cell phones were found and removed- great work by our brave prison officers. Perhaps a more appropriate headline would have been Brave prison officers discover cell phones found in prison

  4. Did everyone miss the fact that these prisoner’s were informed that they were going to be strip searched, and as you read above. One woman said she refused to be stripped searched.

    Here is a news flash. You are in prison. You have very little to no rights. When they inform you, you are to be strip searched. You do not have any rights to refuse.

    End of story.

    You don’t want your rights violated. Then don’t go to prison.

    With all this politically correct nonsense going on. It’s gotten so bad, we actually should care about prisoners rights?! That is absurd.

    Prison is not a day camp. It’s not a place where you are reformed. It’s not a happy place.
    It’s a place where your rights are stripped, you are a number, not a name. You do what youre told, when youre told. You do not have say, on how the prison is run. You are a prisoner. You have no choice in what they feed you, or how your clothed. And any and all entertainment is an absolute luxury, not a right. That at anytime they can revoke, without a reason. And certainly no reason’s they have to explain or justify to any prisoner.

    You leave your cell when they let you, you stay in your cell when you are told. You do not smoke, eat, exercise, take a shower or even watch tv, without permission.

    what is so hard to understand here. Are people actually shocked when they find out, that prison isn’t a nice place to be?

    Even if this was a retaliatory act. It doesn’t matter, as stated above. You have little to no rights. You do what your told, when your told. Why is this even news?

  5. First thing the people are in prison for a reason. They are not there for an award or to be given a certificate for person of the year. The guards were told of the cell phones and who had them. All the inmates had to do was to turn over the phones and problem solved. No that did not happen the inmtaes did not comply and the rest is history.Being a prison guard is not a fun job and the people you work with is a challenge.Was the search in retaliation i can’t say i was not there.Contraband is not allowed in prison and must removed period.

  6. It’s hard to believe how some are so naive. The OCC thankfully is an independent body and the Commissioner, from what I hear is actually a highly educated, impartial certified judge. She inspects and investigates evidence before making a decision. Why would she make such a serious verdict against Mr. Manderson and Mr. Bush without solid proof? She would not, I’m convinced. The public should be thankful that we have the freedom to knock on the OCC door to file our complaints against Government when they are misbehaving.
    From what I read between the lines is some young girls wrote a letter and the guards did not like what they wrote, so they retaliated. From what I read after the strip search some guard said that’s what you get for writing letters about guards. It seems several guards confirm this was said.
    If this happened in the USA these young girls would have a flood of lawyers knocking on their door offering their services for free. I am one citizen who appreciates the OCC and their work.

  7. The female prisoners wrote complaining the guards were lazy.
    I’m not familiar with their work ethic but I would seem to me that working as a prison guard MUST comprise mostly periods of inactivity just sitting on guard outside the cells.
    Were they expecting room service perhaps?

    I also note that two cell phones were recovered, ONE of which was in plain view. The other I assume was found during the strip search.

    How on earth did the cell phones get in the prison in the first place? Don’t they have metal detectors?

    As another commentor rightly said, prison is not a nice place. You have few rights, if any. If that doesn’t appeal, don’t do the crime.

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