Human rights prompt new police jail cells

New prefabricated buildings to replace the George Town and West Bay police jails are set to be operational in November, government officials said Thursday during a groundbreaking ceremony near Fairbanks women’s prison.

The penal-grade modular buildings will be used as short-term holding facilities for prisoners in police custody, who under the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights “have the right to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

As evidenced by a United Kingdom prison inspectors’ report released in February, the jails in the George Town and West Bay police stations fall far below the constitutional standard.

“What we have right now are not cells. They’re cages,” Police Commissioner David Baines said.

Police and civil servants have long lobbied for improved short-term holding facilities.

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The $2.2 million custody facilities have a 25-year warranty, are rated to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and are used in Bermuda, Canada and the United States, Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush said.

He said U.K. prison advisers recommended the facilities as being “a credible solution for our environment.”

The forms, walls and structures of the buildings have been completed and are being shipped to Grand Cayman. The plan is for six cells to be available for up to 12 prisoners by November, along with supporting facilities such as rooms for police interviews, Breathalyzer testing and attorney-client meetings. In January, the “first phase” of the project – comprising a total of 12 cells for up to 24 prisoners – is set to be complete.

Police will use the custody facilities to hold individuals who have been arrested. The custody facilities will not, however, be sufficient to hold remand prisoners awaiting trial. There are currently about 40 remand prisoners in Cayman.

The custody facilities are located in south George Town near the foundation of the $10 million youth remand facility project, which is now defunct due to a lack of funds.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the site was selected for the custody facilities because it already had proper zoning and government didn’t need to purchase additional land.

Mr. Bush said the ultimate vision for the project is to have enough holding facilities to contain all prisoners in temporary custody and on remand, as outlined in the Bill of Rights.

The ministry’s deputy chief officer Wesley Howell said the George Town and West Bay police jails have already been condemned, and once the new custody facilities are finished, the old cells should not be used to hold people.

The government bid the project out through the Central Tenders Committee, and the contract was awarded to U.S. company Eagle Modular, one of two bidders.

“We are here to right a wrong that been going on for too long,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

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  1. Correctional officials are commended for replacing existing detention space with high-quality prefabricated buildings. Beyond addressing requirements of the Cayman Island Bill of Rights, the new facility will offer a highly professional setting for processing individuals under arrest for short-term periods. Eagle Companies is known throughout the criminal justice profession for providing exceptional detention facilities. Their institutions balance the needs of staff, offenders, and the general public.

    Warden (Ret)
    Senior Executive Service
    United States Department of Justice