Prisons seek earlier inmate release warning

The head of Cayman’s prison system wants to officially notify the police and probation departments every time an extremely violent or “prolific” offender is due to be released. 

Details of the proposal to create what is being called a Multi-Agency Supervision Team, or MAST, are still being drafted. However, Prisons Director Neil Lavis said Cayman is hampered by the lack of a formal release notification process in two ways: It does not consistently inform the police about violent offenders’ release, and it does not consistently inform probation officers about repeat offenders whom the department may be able to assist. 

Mr. Lavis emphasized that he is not seeking to create a public notification system, similar to what exists in the U.S., for released prisoners. The notification would be more for internal use by government agencies. 

“We’re trying to … identify, prior to release from prison, those who may present a danger to the public, or prolific offenders, those who may come out and commit multiple burglaries,” Mr. Lavis said. “I don’t know how productive a big notice about ‘this person’s coming out’ would be.” 

The MAST committee consists of Mr. Lavis, Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Brougham and Department of Community Rehabilitation Director Teresa Echenique-Bowen. 

From a police perspective, Mr. Lavis said, notification about the release of “a relatively small group” of violent offenders such as rapists and armed robbers, is essential so officers can “keep track … and target limited resources at these people” if they are determined to remain a threat to the community following their release from prison. 

On the other side, the Department of Community Rehabilitation requires notification prior to prisoners’ release so it can identify community services and potential employment for offenders of lesser crimes looking to get their lives back on track. 

“We’re going to identify them and say ‘what is causing this person to offend?’ and try to support this person who is being released,” Mr. Lavis said. 

Preventing even one prolific burglar from committing dozens of break-ins following release can have a significant impact on crime, the prisons director said. That impact can be far greater than anything local police can achieve by locking someone up for six to 12 months, Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said. 

“This is a society problem and other agencies need to be involved,” Mr. Walton said. “There has to be a holistic approach to it.” 

This year, police have made more than 100 arrests in connection with burglaries that have occurred since January. However, crime statistics as of June 30 indicate that it is likely the Cayman Islands may see more than 600 break-ins again this year, judging by the more than 320 break-ins reported between January and June. 

Generally, Mr. Lavis said, the idea is to create good, formalized information-sharing between the police, prisons and probation units of the government. “We do already have joint intelligence … this just formalizes it a bit more.” 

The three-person group expects to meet again next month to work out the details of the plan that will be presented to the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration. 

The prisons director has sought to address the islands’ recidivism rates through partnerships with local businesses to try and place offenders directly into jobs upon their release. A release under a temporary license program was introduced last year to assist inmates coming to the end of their sentences in getting involved in voluntary or paid work. 

Recidivism rates at Northward Prison are averaging around 70 percent for all offenders. 

Northward Prison

Northward Prison

Mr. Lavis

Mr. Lavis
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  1. It is well and good to notify the police and probation officers when certain prolific and violent prisoners are released, but reporting is not enough, because; for one, the police or probation officers will not be in a position to constantly monitoring these persons on a daily basis.
    Maybe some thought should be given to notify the police and probation in the district where the prisoner would be residing, furthermore because we are a small community I do not see why we cannot have a public notification system at Post Offices and police stations notice board regarding violent repeat offenders release.
    There has been talked about incidences where a violent offender released had raped a woman on one of the district public beach, and residents were afraid and alarmed after seeing the person checking cars on avenues around 3 am in the morning. This is not good, and if there was public notification, persons would have the opportunity to be on the look out, instead of being shocked at their appearance. I do believe that a plan of securing a job, a place to live with three months rent already paid should be put in action prior the release of any prisoner spending more than a year in prison who don’t have anywhere to go. In one year a person can loose a lot, and a jump start hopefully will encourage good. Of course we won’t be able to help all of them, but I still believe that we only fail when we stop trying.

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  2. Mr. Lavis, I think that the mast team of 3 is too small to make a sound decisions on releasing prisoners. I think that if you want to help the prisoners and community by making sure that the prisoner is ready and triple ready for release, the prisoner needs to do multiple probationary interviews to see if he/she is ready for release in community. I think that the ball is in your court to make sure that a person is ready for release with the help of police and probationary arms.

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