Juvenile justice center write-off: $678,000

Juvenile justice center write-off: $678,000

The Cayman Islands government has written off nearly $700,000 spent on the partial construction of a juvenile justice center proposed under the former United Democratic Party government administration. 

The write-off was required in government financial statements reviewed by the auditor general’s office because government has identified “no alternative use” for the structure’s foundation. 

The foundation for the juvenile justice center, which was to be called the Cayman Islands Youth Centre remains today in a wooded area of Fairbanks in George Town district, near the women’s prison. 

Home Affairs Ministry Chief Officer Eric Bush said Thursday that he was aware of no current plans by government to transfer or redevelop the property. Mr. Bush said the write-off was largely a cleanup exercise and that the decision not to continue with the project was made years ago. 

“The decision was certainly made before the [May 2013] general election,” he said. 

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The project, once planned as a 12-bed specialist facility for housing juvenile prisoners, was abandoned in early 2013, during the interim People’s National Alliance’s short term as the government, due to funding constraints. Its cancellation was confirmed when prisons director Neil Lavis declared in mid-2013 that he did not need it. 

“With such small numbers [of juvenile prisoners], it would be wrong of me to build a nice, glowing 12-bed unit, which would sit there with nobody in it or one or two people in it,” Mr. Lavis said in July 2013. “Is that the best use of public money?” 

Former United Democratic Party Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam was forced to remove all funding for the center from government’s 2012/13 budget because of financial constraints. Government’s initial budget for the project during the 2011/12 fiscal year began at $3 million, but was reduced by $1.7 million to help government pay for other projects. 

In addition to the construction and design costs for the center, which now consists of a foundation with rebar pipes sticking out of it exposed to the weather, there were some travel costs associated with the project as well. Mr. Adam went to Missouri in November 2010 to study that state’s youth rehabilitation project with several other government representatives at a cost of $11,583. The Missouri program was used as the foundation for the one in Cayman, as envisioned by Mr. Adam’s ministry. Planning permission for the new 21,000-square-foot remand center was granted in August 2011. At the time, the estimated construction cost was $8 million. The project broke ground in March 2012. 

When the Progressives-led administration took over in 2013, a constitutional mandate for the separation of juvenile and adult prisoners was looming. The section of the constitution’s bill of rights that dealt with prisoner treatment also required the separation of remand prisoners (those charged with a crime) from those already convicted. 

Mr. Lavis stated at the time that he believed underage prisoners could be kept apart from adults on the Northward compound with minimal costs in an arrangement that would satisfy human rights requirements. 

Mr. Lavis, who took over the Cayman Islands prisons system in June 2013, said he “knew nothing” of the earlier project for the proposed juvenile justice center and had not been briefed on it by July 2013. 

This overgrown, sand-filled foundation is what remains of the 2012 effort to construct the Cayman Islands Youth Centre. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

This overgrown, sand-filled foundation is what remains of the 2012 effort to construct the Cayman Islands Youth Centre. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay
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  1. Outrageous that $700,000 was written off for remand center at Fairbanks for which Planning Permission for 21,000 sq. ft. facility and $8,000,000 in estimated construction costs were approved in 2011! The plan was killed, canceled, in 2012 because of lack of Government funding and because Government was "unable to identify alternative use for the structure foundation" which lies bereft in a quiet location. How about a psychiatric centre (named in honour of a leading Caymanian family, who might provide some funding for the facility) for mental illness being built in that location? How difficult would it be to resurrect the plans and dig for money for such a much-needed project? Surely a facility is desperately needed to house (even temporarily) sufferers of mental illness on all three islands. There is no such facility on either of the Sister Islands. Mental health is an issue for all Caymanians – surely as crucial as a dock for humongous cruise-ships in Hog Sty Bay and the destruction (long-sought) of the George Town Dump.

  2. This is despicable behavior / conduct of government the way that they handle /spend taxpayers money. To read the different headlines of how they have blatenly destroyed taxpayers money. Make me believe that they have no business being in the position that they are in . I say next election think twice about these people, or who is going to handle the taxpayers money.

  3. with all the talk of how bad Northward is, how the youth in school are causing trouble, young adult/teen unemployment, lack of mental health facility, you would think that the CIG would complete this facility. So, maybe right now they’ll only have 1 or 2 juvenile criminals–how about in the future. Where’s the forward thinking. Why not use it as part of rehab for teens and young adults so they can be in a more conducive environment than the prison. They’ve already let a partial built high school linger.

  4. Really no surprise to me. Just watch the train of thoughts exercised by the Government. If they did not build it, then their decision is to let it stay there and rot like the Koshia Huts at the Bodden Town Public Beach. Seen them lately?
    People of Bodden Town could have made use of them; but spiteful MLA’s said no, let them stay there and rotten down, how thoughtless? Lets see how man of the Broom Sticks Bodden Town people will put back in again to govern them.

  5. I seem to recall that when the new Civil Service palace was built (no hesitation in this case!)that one floor was reconfigured to meet the detailed specifications of CIMA at a cost in excess of what we are talking about here, only for the Monetary Authority to change their mind and say they were not moving in. The rationale for the new building was to reduce Government’s rental bill, yet it was only a little more than half full 2 years after completion with many government departments and agencies continuing to rent from private sector landlords.
    Unfortunately waste and mismanagement are a fact of life in the public sector and there is no sign of this changing.,