Bodden Town Member of the Legislative Assembly Dwayne Seymour said Friday that too many young people in the Cayman Islands are paying too high a price for their first criminal offences.
“Criminal records often prevent them from finding work, particularly as more people vie for a smaller pool of positions,” Mr. Seymour told the Legislative Assembly as he introduced a private members motion that seeks to change the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law.
Mr. Seymour said he was seeking legislation in the Cayman Islands similar to that proposed in 2009 by United States Congressman Charlie Rangel. Mr. Rangel’s Second Chance for Offenders Act permits the expunging [or clearing] of records for individuals convicted of a first, non-violent offence as long as they fulfil all requirements of the sentence set by a court, remain free from dependency or abuse of alcohol and controlled substances for a minimum of one year, obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and complete at least one year of community service.
Mr. Seymour proposed that some or all of those measures could form any part of a bill Cayman lawmakers might enact.
“It’s not just a situation where we’re saying ‘you made a mistake, no problem. We will expunge this, go make another mistake’,” Mr. Seymour said. “Sometimes offences are left on record for five years, seven years depending on what it is. We don’t want a person to wait for five years or seven years to find employment again. We’re talking about offences that you don’t even go to prison for.”
The existing Rehabilitation of Offenders Law (1998 Revision) makes provision for convictions that are treated as “spent” in certain criminal cases. Any obligation required of the offender to disclose the details of a conviction is removed when that conviction is considered “spent”.
Sentences excluded from rehabilitation include those with a prison term of more than 30 months.
Cayman Islands Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Friday that the government expects to bring a redrafted version of the rehabilitation law to Cabinet within the next few weeks. He said that difficulties with the rehabilitation process, including the expunging of records, is something of which government is well aware.
Mr. Manderson said any proposals government brings forward would have to balance between ensuring law and order in the community and providing offenders with “a real opportunity” to get back into society.
Rehabilitation is becoming more of a concern, Mr. Manderson said, because of an increasing number juvenile offenders now appearing in the courts system.
“It should also be noted that the profile of average offenders is changing as the age of first serious offence, and consequently the age of first incarceration among young males, is steadily decreasing,” he said.
The Caymanian Compass reported in August that the number of criminal offences committed by juvenile or teenage suspects in the Cayman Islands doubled in 2011 and some of the more serious violent crimes blamed on those young offenders increased sharply.
The records of juvenile offences are contained within the government’s Compendium of Statistics.
According to the records for 2011, there were 307 offences committed by individuals between the ages of 11 and 18. In 2010, that number was 150 offences.
The vast number of suspects were male. Out of the 77 people convicted in 2011, 62 were young men – 81 per cent of those convicted.