Director: 55 per cent of prison staff members are Caymanian

Well more than half of the prison service staff employed within the Cayman Islands is Caymanian, according to a report released to the Caymanian Compass by prisons director Dwight Scott.

The figures provided by Mr. Scott seem to contradict an evaluation conducted by a Canadian public administration institute which said fewer than half the prison’s staff members were Caymanians.

The government-commissioned review of the Cayman Islands prison system by Canada’s Institute of Public Administration noted some concern in the apparent lack of Caymanian staff members within not only the prison service, but also the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and prisoner counselling roles.

A review of the RCIPS last year also found that 48 per cent of the service’s officers were Caymanian and 52 per cent were non-Caymanian. Civilian employees within the police service were split about 69 per cent Caymanian to 31 per cent non-Caymanian.

“We are not convinced by the arguments against having Caymanians serve as prison officers,” the report read. “Having Caymanians act as prison staff would invest Caymanian society with a keen interest in rehabilitation, as it is Caymanian society that is the residual victim of criminal behaviour.”

The report recommended government set an “immediate target” of having the prison staff be composed of 50 per cent Caymanians by 2016.

It seems the prison service has already met and exceeded that target. According to Mr. Scott, 80 of 146 prison staffers – roughly 54.8 per cent – were Caymanians as of 15 March.

Information provided by the director’s office stated that the prison service also employs 66 foreign nationals, 15 of whom are permanent residents. Mr. Scott’s report noted the prison service employs 35 Jamaicans, 10 Filipinos, six Guyanese, five individuals from the United Kingdom, three from Barbados, two from Honduras and one prison employee apiece from Belize, Trinidad, the United States, Dominica, and Colombia.

Dozens of individuals who work in and around the prison system were interviewed for the Canadian public policy institute’s report and it seemed all those individuals were not in agreement. The document noted that concerns about locals being placed in prison-related functions were raised most strongly by non-Caymanian stakeholders who were interviewed.

Recent discussions among members of the Prisons Inspection Board, as recorded in minutes of various meetings, also note some difficulties within the prison system encountered with foreign-born officers.

“[A board member] raised the issue of a language barrier between the inmates and the Filipino guards, some of whom barely speak English,” the minutes of the 25 November Prisons Inspection Board meeting read. “This was noted by inspectors in their attempts to communicate with [the officers who were from the Philippines].”

The board member also noted their views that the job of a modern prison officer is to assist in the rehabilitation of inmates and doing so would have to require that they speak the same language.

The issue was raised again in a board meeting from March 2011, when members noted concern over how prison officers from the Philippines – referred to as “Pilipinos” – were being treated.

“There is a language and communication barrier between the inmates and the officers of ‘Pilipino’ origin,” the March meeting notes recorded. A recent count of the Northward Prison population, which now houses around 200 male prisoners, revealed that some 80 per cent of those being held were Caymanians. Nearly 90 per cent of those locked up for violent crimes were Caymanians, prison figures noted.