Editorial for 11 June: Addressing prison issues

Neil Lavis has taken on a big job.

He’s the new director of prisons for the Cayman Islands.

Unfortunately for us and Mr. Lavis, he’s not sailing into
uncharted waters.

He’s coming to us from HMP Swansea, which houses about 435
prisoners.

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-thirds 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 several recent incidents where
drugs were found inside Northward. Some of the occasions involved packages of
contraband being thrown over the walls, while others involved individuals
bringing drugs into the prison. We’ve even had a report of a dead chicken
stuffed with ganja thrown over the fencing at Northward.

His appointment comes after a damning report in January from
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, which condemned facilities in Grand
Cayman as shambolic and barely fit for human habitation.

Fortunately, Mr. Lavis is looking at the situation in the
Cayman Islands pragmatically.

“There are no quick fixes. It is about changing the ethos of
the establishment. I’ll be here for the long haul and I’m looking forward to
it,” he told the Caymanian Compass.

His idea is to move the prison forward; he believes helping
inmates with addiction problems is an important part of cutting recidivism
rates.

There are many issues that need to be addressed within the
prison system. While the report wasn’t good, it at least throws some light on
the issues that need to be addressed.

We wish Mr. Lavis good luck.

 

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