Two years later, police modular cells open

The modular cell facilities opened on March 11, and were used to house suspects arrested by the police over the following weekend. - Photos: Matt Lamers

Replacement police holding cells, which had lain idle since their arrival on Grand Cayman in April 2014, opened earlier this month, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officials confirmed last week.

The modular holding facility opened in the Fairbanks area of George Town on March 11 and was used to house suspects arrested by the police over the following weekend, according to RCIPS Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton.

Police officials said a few kinks were still being worked out at the detention facilities, but said all prisoners would soon be “booked in” at the modular trailers rather than at the George Town central police station.

The police cells at the downtown station were described in a United Kingdom prison inspector’s report from 2013 as “barely fit for human habitation,” but they were still being used as of earlier this month to hold people who are arrested, prior to their release or detention in Fairbanks or Northward prisons.

The new modular cells, which cost government US$2.1 million and can house up to 24 inmates, were constructed in Chicago, shipped to Cayman and moved into place near Fairbanks Prison in mid-April 2014. Officials with the Ministry of Home Affairs said at the time that they expected the units to be opened within six weeks – the beginning of June 2014 – but that did not happen.

The delay was largely due to stalled planning inspections and outfit of the facilities, ministry officials said.

The new cells are required, in part, to bring Cayman’s prisoner detention facilities in line with human rights legislation.

The current Progressives-led administration announced plans last year to eventually shutter the current George Town Police Station, which has been condemned, selling the land it sits on and moving the police station to what is envisioned as a law enforcement complex – to include the courts building – off Crewe Road.

It has not been made clear whether, if this plan is pursued, prisoner detention facilities would be moved to that site as well, or kept in the Fairbanks area.

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts has said that the project is moving along and that government “would very much like” to sell parcels of land totaling 1.7 acres at the site of the current police station and former vehicle licensing building on Elgin Avenue.

“Where the police station is now is perhaps the most valuable piece of property left in central George Town, and of course, the police really need new premises,” Mr. Tibbetts said in 2015. “We could dispose of that property because the police station doesn’t need to be in that location.”

Mr. Tibbetts said government owns several parcels of adjacent land near Jose’s gas station on Crewe Road which are being eyed for a new courts facility. However, the courts building itself would not need the entire property, he said. The idea is to sell the 1.7 acres where the police station sits in downtown, and to arrange with the buyer a leaseback for roughly two years so that the RCIPS could continue to occupy the building.

However, when asked about the government plans to move the police station from downtown George Town, Chief Superintendent Walton expressed doubt about such a proposal.

“I’m 47 years old, I’m going to retire [from the police] at age 60,” he said. “When I retire, we’ll still be in this [central George Town] station.”