New holding cells in place

New pre-built holding cells for suspected criminals arrived in the Cayman Islands on Saturday to replace ageing facilities that were condemned in an inspector’s report as “barely fit for human habitation.”

The new cells, which cost government US$2.1 million and can house up to 24 inmates, were constructed in Chicago, shipped to Cayman and moved into place near Fairbanks Prison at the weekend.

They will be operational within six weeks, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The cells, which are hurricane proof, bring Cayman’s detention facilities into line with human rights legislation.

“The rooms are designed to allow detainees a certain amount of personal space. In addition, the rooms have been constructed in such a way as to minimize opportunities for prisoners to self-harm,” said Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer in the ministry.

The existing holding cells at West Bay and George Town police stations were strongly criticized in a damming report by U.K. prison inspectors last year.

The report stated, “The condition of the police custody suites at George Town and West Bay were extremely poor. We describe them as dirty, windowless, and hot. There were numerous safety issues and they were barely fit for human habitation. We were reassured that senior officers of police agreed with us, that they should be condemned and replaced as soon as possible.”

In addition to cells, the new prefab buildings, described as custody suites, include a breathalyzer room, interview rooms and a visitation room. The facility also has “state-of-the-art” communication, camera and intercom equipment, according to Tim Tobin of Eagle Modular, which built the suites for the Cayman Islands government.

Some work, including external electrical and plumbing, still needs to be done before the cells are put to use.

Mr. Howell said the initial policy would be to restrict the cells, which can hold two prisoners, to single occupancy.

“Recent policy changes have reduced the number of hours that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service normally holds persons in detention from 72 to 48. This should reduce the total number of people in lock-up at any given time. As such it will be our policy to occupy rooms based on single occupancy first before moving to double occupancy,”

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