A bevy of recommended changes to the Cayman Islands prisons system made following a United Kingdom inspection report could cost more than $20 million to implement, according to government estimates.
“Very early estimates are expected to be an investment of over $20 million to rebuild a purpose-built facility that will be fully compliant with human rights and UK standards,” said Eric Bush, chief officer of the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. “We are researching all options.”
The portfolio has some evidence to provide a baseline comparison for costs of a new prison.
“The prison which was newly built in Anguilla a few years ago is built to house 110 inmates and cost over US$11 million,” Mr. Bush said. “We need to build a facility to house at least double that [number] and to include females and juveniles in separate and secured areas.”
One of the major issues with Northward men’s prison right now, according to Mr. Bush and UK inspectors, is that it is not constructed to house more than mid-level risk inmates. Security at Northward was one of the top concerns of UK inspectors.
Cayman handles what are known as Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D-type offenders. Class D offenders are the least serious, more minor or rehabilitated offenders; Class A is the highest-risk offender category. According to UK inspectors, Northward could only be coded as a Class C prison facility.
“It needs better walls, better fencing, better [inmate] dorms, better segregation [of prisoners],” said Acting Deputy Prisons Director Aduke Natalie Joseph-Caesar, noting there are quite a few things the prison service must do in the meantime to counteract potential security threats within the system.
However, the construction and/or complete renovation of Northward and also of Fairbanks women’s prison – which Mr. Bush eventually hopes to move back to the Northward compound – is not the only cost-related issue identified in the UK report.
The report also noted that juvenile prisoners, some of whom currently being housed in the adult population and having contact with older male prisoners, are at critical risk of being recruited into local gangs or even being sexually assaulted by older prisoners.
“Juveniles should be protected from abuse and bullying,” UK prison inspectors recommended. “As a minimum [they] should be specific to their needs and include education and a focus on rehabilitation.”
Although the Cayman Islands constitutionally requires the total separation of adult and juvenile prisoners by November 2013, funding for the multimillion dollar juvenile remand facility being constructed in George Town was delayed in last year’s budget because of financial problems. Another $1.7 million was expected to be added to the current 2012/13 government budget to continue work on the detention centre in a wooded area south of Fern Circle and west of Fairview Road in George Town.
For both juvenile prisoners and adults, the UK recommended that “meaningful activities” be made more available for prisoners in the areas of education, training and work study. Prisoners should be required to attend such activities; currently, they are only voluntary.
The prison service has formed a 32-person team, including a psychologist, a qualified counsellor, two social workers and other trained staff to work with offenders while they are in prison, Mrs. Joseph-Caesar said.
Healthcare for prisoners was also a matter addressed in the UK inspection report. Both adequate health assessments and adequate healthcare staff were problematic within the entire prison system, UK inspectors said.
“There should be enough nurses, doctors and administration staff, with the right skills, to ensure that prisoners’ physical and mental health needs can be assessed and treated as appropriate,” the UK report recommended.
All of those items amount to additional expenditure within the Cayman Islands prison system, Mr. Bush admits.
“Certainly, in five to 10 years, there needs to be serious investment if the government and the people of the Cayman Islands want to see a truly productive prison system,” Mr. Bush said. “Some parts of the prisons are 10 years past their use date. We’re doing the best we can, but for there to be real improvement … there needs to be appropriate investment into the prison service.
“To be fair to any government, we need to provide them with a strategic plan that they buy into,” he added. “That’s something we’ll hopefully have within the next six months.”