A marginal spending increase for the Cayman Islands government department that monitors paroled criminal offenders will not allow the agency to implement the Conditional Release Law in the way it “would have liked to,” Premier Alden Mclaughlin said last week.
A $100,000 increase for the Department of Community Rehabilitation, along with some other spending restructuring, allows the agency to hire four employees to act in a role similar to that of a parole officer for released offenders.
The job is crucial to the success of Cayman’s new regime under the Conditional Release Law, which came into effect this year and requires anyone convicted of a custodial sentence longer than 12 months to serve at least 60 percent of the term in prison after which they can be released on parole.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller questioned whether this “inability to provide resources” would slow down the conditional release program aimed at the rehabilitation and reabsorption of offenders back into Cayman society.
“If we release more people than we have people to monitor them … we could have a problem in society,” Mr. Miller said.
Premier McLaughlin and Department of Community Rehabilitation Director Teresa Echenique-Bowen acknowledged that more would have to be done to bolster the offender release and monitoring program.
“Fairly quickly, we will need to increase head count again,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
However, Mr. McLaughlin also noted that there is no service government provides where the managers would not ideally like to have “so many more” people on staff.
“Granted, but this one is a little more troubling,” Mr. Miller said.
Ms. Echenique-Bowen said adequate staff has always been a problem for the department, but noted they are better off now than a year ago.
“[The four new staff members] place us in a better position to move forward with the Conditional Release law,” she said.
The Conditional Release Law was passed unanimously by the Legislative Assembly in October 2014 and took effect on Feb. 15, 2016. It introduces a system that sets general guidelines for the release of all prisoners on license (similar to parole) 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, which requires a sentence of 30 years before any consideration of release on license. Even then, in cases where there are aggravated or extenuating circumstances surrounding the murder, 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 the sentence in prison. If the prisoner is deemed to no longer 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.
A nine-person board chaired by Debra Humphreys, a retired vice president at Cayman National Bank and former head of the Cayman Islands Justices of the Peace Association, will oversee the conditional release program.
Richard de Lacy, QC, has been appointed deputy chairman of the board.
The other appointed board members are attorneys Timothy Derrick and Nicholas Dunne, Rev. Godfrey Meghoo, educational psychologist Susan Bodden, Baraud recruitment manager Alan Brady, former attorney and HospiceCare staffer Danielle Coleman, and legal secretary Alecia La Toya Folkes.