Convicted prisoners released on license after serving 60 percent of their sentence generally will be required to register with Cayman’s National Workforce Development Agency if they are not already employed upon their parole date.
The regulations to the Conditional Release Law, which took effect Monday, state that license conditions shall include “that the prisoner engage in gainful employment and, if not employed, register with the National Workforce Development Agency or engage in community service work, as approved by the prisoner’s supervising officer.”
Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor, Peter Gough, said the requirement to work, or to actively search for employment, would be made for every person released on parole under the new law.
“They just can’t sit at home and do nothing,” Mr. Gough said.
According to probation supervision rules, no employment will be undertaken by prisoners on licensed release until it is approved by the office overseeing the prisoner’s parole.
NWDA Director Brian Holland said Monday that a requirement to register all offenders released under license would be new to the agency.
Mr. Holland said the NWDA currently serves a number of individuals in the Cayman Islands who are seeking work that have prior criminal records, but said there was no current requirement prior to Monday for all unemployed parolees to register.
Jobless registration is just one of several general conditions set for prisoners released on license under the new law. Others include requirements that the prisoner live in approved premises, that they shall not leave the Cayman Islands, barring “exceptional circumstances,” and that they must regularly report to the Department of Community Rehabilitation.
The Conditional Release Law, passed unanimously by legislators in October 2014, introduces a system that sets general guidelines for the release of prisoners on license conditions. It applies to all inmates, including juveniles, and to those already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In criminal cases, the sentencing guidelines – called tariffs – are largely left to the court’s discretion.
The only exception stated in the law is for murder offenses, which require a sentence of 30 years prior to any consideration of release on license. Even then, in cases where there are aggravated or extenuating circumstances surrounding the killing, the prison term can be set higher or lower by a judge.
All other criminal offenses that carry more than a one-year sentence require the offender, under the Conditional Release Law, to serve at least 60 percent of that sentence in prison.
If the prisoner is deemed no longer to be a threat to the community, he or she will serve the remainder of the sentence under supervised release.
Sentences of a year or less require release after 60 percent of the jail term is served, barring exceptional circumstances.
Last spring, the government reported that, although nearly 1,600 Caymanians remained unemployed – according to statistical data – fewer than 600 had registered with the NWDA.
In recent months, the registrations have increased somewhat, but they have never reached anywhere close to the number of unemployed individuals believed to exist within the Cayman Islands.
The 600 figure represents only the unemployed. A number of other “underemployed” workers – those working part time – less than 37.5 hours per week – and those who are employed full-time, but are seeking new jobs are not included in those numbers.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has suggested that all unemployed citizens who are seeking work in the Cayman Islands be required to register with the agency so that local companies will know precisely the “real” jobless numbers.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in January that the 8.3 percent unemployment rate for Caymanians reported in 2015 remained “unacceptably high” and that government needed the private sector’s help to bring those numbers down. Mr. McLaughlin also pointed out that there were more than 22,000 work permit holders registered as being on island presently.
“While we must acknowledge that there are significant issues that stand in the way of employment for some Caymanians, this is simply not the case for most Caymanians,” Mr. McLaughlin said.