Just about 11 years ago the Cayman government instituted visas for Jamaicans entering the Cayman Islands as visitors. Two major reasons were given. Firstly, the government argued that there were over 1,500 Jamaican overstayers in Cayman. Then when there was an increase in crime, fingers were pointed at the Jamaican population. As the former prison Chaplain, knowing the elements of crime in Cayman and the population in the prison system, I stood alone and declared that the excuses given by the government at the time for introducing visas was invalid and very incorrect.
What you have now with approximately 90 percent of the prison population being Caymanian is just about what it was when I left the prison service in 2004. I must say that though I served as Chaplain, the prison director, John Forrester, gave me the opportunity to work in other areas and with the management staff for the betterment of the prison.
While there I did an unofficial survey which showed that the system in Cayman failed our young people from an early age. My survey showed that most of the inmates had been in the system from their early years and for many they had grown in the system through other organizations such as the Bonaventure home. The survey also showed that recidivism was trendy and that inmates were now very institutionalized to the point where they were comfortable with being at Her Majesty’s Prisons. The crime problem I argued in 2005 was not a Jamaican problem but one fully Caymanian.
The facts are there. On top of that I argued for an amnesty and just over 100 Jamaicans took the amnesty and left. This again was a slap in the face for those who argued that there were over 1,500 overstayers. As a Caymanian now pastoring in Jamaica, in Spanish Town to be exact, I must say that this whole farce of a visa system is probably a money-making scheme as it seems to be for other countries. I still run a travel agency in Jamaica, and should mention that I do visas for the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Australia, and even Schengen countries. None of them ask Jamaicans for a police record, only Cayman. I must reiterate that Jamaicans are not the source of the crime problem for Cayman. We have a lot of work to do and it begins with honesty, introspection, and determination. My friends at HMP are working hard with the inmates to reduce recidivism and to prepare inmates for the society. It is however the society that needs changing.
Our legislators need to repeal the visa system, but if they choose to keep it, then they should fall in line with the other countries and withdraw the need for the police record.
In terms of Cayman, once we can truthfully face the facts, then we should introduce parenting laws, parenting classes in schools, develop local methods that work for Caymanians and stop importing methods along with people from countries that do not understand the structureless mindsets of the Caymanian juvenile. Our legislators must stop talking about the drug problems and put more money into stopping its importation, while looking to keep our youngsters out of prison because of drugs. I would think by now that the drug court would change that, but too many of our young people are in prison for drugs or drug-related problems. Our legislators must invest now in our youth, as I suggested 15 years ago and was told that we had to concentrate on those already there in the system.
I say once again, change for the future begins today with an investment in the children. If we tackle the problem at the early stage, then the problem becomes minuscule in the future. Our legislators must listen to the voice of the people. What will our children be able to own tomorrow if everything is sold out today in the name of money?
Yes, Northward is indeed 90 percent Caymanian and it is that way for a reason. Let us work now to address that and do so urgently. In closing, I am happy to see some of the lifers out. I fought for that. However, we must now look at some laws to retain some inmates. To protect our streets from serious crimes, some inmates do not deserve to be back on the streets. They behave well in the prison system, and I am sure back then I would have suggested parole for some of them. The truth is that the police can tell you that as soon as parolees get out, many get back involved in crime. That truth broke my heart and caused some depression, but I say it is time to recognize that some of them belong in prison for life.
Get the laws in place now to protect our island and keep our people proud of that one thing that makes us really different from other beautiful countries – our crime-free Cayman!