A female prisoner at HM Fairbanks was taken to hospital Sunday after another inmate apparently dumped hot water on her in attempts to get her to be quiet.
Prisons Director Neil Lavis declined to identify the prisoner who was injured, but it was understood to be the same woman who was arrested last week in connection with machete attacks at Cafe del Sol and Burger King in downtown George Town.
The injuries were treated and the prisoner was returned to Fairbanks.
The 39-year-old woman appeared on Friday charged with robbery, having a machete and knife in her possession outside her home, and using threatening behavior. The magistrate directed that she be remanded in custody for her own protection and welfare.
According to Fairbanks prisoners, the woman began screaming in her cell block on Sunday and could not be subdued, leading to a dispute with other prisoners. After the water scalding incident, prison guards were assigned to monitor the woman, but the screaming continued Monday.
The microwave used to heat up the water that scalded the woman on Sunday was taken out of the Fairbanks common room.
While not commenting directly on the incident, Mr. Lavis said Fairbanks is designed to be an “open plan” facility. Prisoners can be held in separate blocks, but there is no way to deal with them in a private area away from other prisoners on the compound. Fairbanks is a small facility, only housing approximately 13 prisoners now.
“If we needed to hold someone completely separately, we can hold them on their own but what we can’t do is have somewhere quiet where we can deal with them,” Mr. Lavis said. “We do end up with prisoners with mental health issues and we try to deal with them as best we can.”
The Cayman Islands government’s failure in dealing with the mentally ill was first highlighted by former Complaints Commissioner John Epp and investigated again by current Commissioner Nicola Williams in 2012.
The complaints commissioner’s recommendations to improve the administration of care and housing for the mentally ill in the Cayman Islands were not implemented more than two years after they were put forward in the initial report made public in 2009, Ms. Williams noted.
Ms. Williams is not the first person to make such a claim. In fact, her follow-up report on the matter – made public in September 2012 – cited statements in 2009 by the late Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation William Rattray, who noted that current prison facilities were not the solution to the territory’s mental health problems.
“It is my view that Fairbanks [women’s prison facility] is not adequate as a place of safety for mental health patients who have not been committed to prison as an untried prisoner, waiting for sentence or sentenced to imprisonment by a court,” Mr. Rattray opined during an April 2009 investigation by the complaints commissioner’s office.
The then-Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gerald Smith, speaking to investigators in 2009, generally agreed with that statement at the time, but noted that “it is the best we can do with what is and is not currently available to us.”
Essentially, public safety authorities are still being forced to find “somewhere else” to put mentally ill people who may pose a risk to society, but who have committed no offence, Ms. Williams noted.