Budget: $69,000 spent per year, per prisoner

The Cayman Islands government will spend approximately $17.2 million on its prison services in the upcoming 2015/16 financial year, not counting outside rehabilitative and supervision expenses, the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee heard last week. 

According to figures presented to the committee, the budget for prison services – day-to-day operations – will be $10.7 million for the next fiscal year which starts July 1. The prison budget for “supervision, intervention and support services” totals about $6.6 million. 

The most recent figures released by Her Majesty’s Prison Service in Cayman were $69,000 per year, per prisoner in the current budget. 

Prisons Director Neil Lavis told the Cayman Compass Thursday that the average prisoner roll for the current budget year has been 188 inmates, including Northward adult men’s prison, Fairbanks women’s prison and juvenile housing facilities. 

The budget for prison operations increased by about $1 million between the current year, which ends June 30, and the upcoming government spending plan. Mr. Lavis said the main reason for the increase was the hiring of 13 prison officers and other staff. 

“It’s a tremendous amount of money going out to the prison services, which actually is an effect from the impacts of our social standing in the country, social deterioration, whatever you want to say,” Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said during the committee’s review. “This is what it’s costing the country. When people say we’re not spending any money on prisoners … they need to look at these figures.” 

As of June 8, 2014, Mr. Lavis reported there were 175 men and 15 women in local prisons. On Thursday, Mr. Lavis reported 171 males, 12 women and one juvenile being held in the prisons service. 

According to a U.K. Ministry of Justice report from Britain’s 2012/13 budget year, just more than $48,000 each year is spent to house each prisoner, although expenditures per person vary depending on the type of inmate and the facility where they are housed. 

Costs of housing U.S. prisoners varies widely from state to state. Federal prisons figures put the annual cost of housing a prisoner from US$21,000 for lower security to US$33,000 for higher security. 

However, those costs can rise much higher, depending on the jurisdiction. For instance, the New York Times found in 2013 that New York City spent more than US$167,000 per year to guard, feed and house each prisoner in the municipal corrections system. 

Hiring Caymanians 

During the last recruiting process for the prison service, Premier Alden McLaughlin said that of 269 people who applied for positions, 13 were hired. 

Of the total number of applicants, 83 were Caymanians. Three of the 13 who were hired were Caymanians, Mr. McLaughlin said. 

Mr. Lavis was questioned regarding why so few Caymanians had been hired. 

“Is it the policy, like within the police force, to try and Caymanize the prison service?” East End MLA Arden McLean asked. 

“That is the aspiration of the public service generally,” Premier McLaughlin replied. 

Mr. Lavis indicated that a physical fitness test was part of the application process and some local applicants did not pass it. One individual, who was otherwise qualified to become a prison officer, was invited to apply again during the next round of hiring, he said.  

The main gate at Northward prison in Bodden Town.


  1. The government needs to look for a lower cost jurisdiction where they can locate these prisoners. The cost to keep them in the Cayman Islands is simply too high.