The Cayman Islands has selected the governor of a Welsh prison to take over the vacant post of director for Her Majesty’s Prisons in the Caribbean territory.
Neil Lavis, a 30-year veteran of the UK prisons service, took up the governor post at Swansea in the spring of 2010. He’s expected to assume the new post on Grand Cayman starting next month.
Mr. Lavis will replace retired prisons director Dwight Scott, who left the job last year under a cloud.
According to reports in the Welsh news media from 2011, the Swansea prison faces many of the same problems as those experienced at HM Northward [the adult men’s prison] and HM Fairbanks [the women’s prison].
Prisoners using drugs and mobile phones were noted as the most serious problems at Swansea prison during a UK inspection of the facility in 2010. Two-third of prisoners surveyed by the inspectorate said they had a drug habit. The prisons took the step of installing netting inside the perimeter fence to intercept drugs being tossed over the wall there.
The Cayman Islands has had a number of relatively recent incidents where drugs were found inside Northward Prison. Some of the incidents involved packages of contraband being thrown over the walls, others involved individuals bringing drugs into the prison.
In one incident, drugs were found in a box inside the Northward Prisons administration building.
According to a government press release sent out late Friday: HMP Swansea currently houses approximately 435 prisoners with a staff compliment of approximately 400 and a £9.5 million budget.
Chief Officer for the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Eric Bush said the new prison director will play a central role in efforts to improve the state of the local prison system.
“We received 26 applications from highly qualified corrections professionals from all over the world and we are confident that Mr. Lavis is the best person for the job,” Mr. Bush said.
“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the Cayman Islands Prisons Service,” Mr. Lavis said. “I am keenly aware of the challenges ahead and am confident that I will make a positive difference and be able to deliver a Prison Service that meets the public expectations of keeping those in custody safe and secure and treating them decently while providing rehabilitation to break the cycle of offending, which will allow them to return to society better equipped to live as law abiding citizens.”
Please see more on this story in next week’s editions of the Caymanian Compass…