Government looks to outsource prisoner transport

Outsourcing intended to reduce demands on prison staff and police

A prisoner transport vehicle at the Court House. - Photo: Matt Lamers

New recommendations by prison officials, based on recommendations in the 2014 Project Future report, push the idea of outsourcing prisoner transport to a private security firm.

The prisoner transport report, finalized in April and released to the public this week, states that five prison officers on average are needed to transport prisoners, taking away the manpower at Northward and Fairbanks prisons needed to keep resources like the library and rehabilitation programs open.

The report notes that the current cost for prison transport amounts to $33 an hour, but outsourcing to a private security firm could lower that cost to $18 an hour.

The report, prepared by Prisons Director Neil Lavis, notes that the outsourcing would not lead to cost savings, but instead help with the staffing challenges at the prison.

The report states, “It is important to note that if the decision is made to outsource this service, there will be no assumption of a reduction in headcount for either the Prison or Police Services.”

It continues, “The Prison Service is currently 18 Prison Officers short and therefore the staff that currently provide court and other escort duties will be redeployed to other duties/responsibilities within the Prison, specifically in the areas of offender rehabilitation, which will add value to the service being provided.”

The report explains that the outsourcing will increase costs initially, but savings would come over the long term “as there will be no need to recruit additional staff within the Prison and Police Services, which would incur a higher cost.”

In a press release this week, government said it would explore two options in an outline business case for outsourcing prisoner transport.

The first option is to hire a private company to transport prisoners to and from court. The second option adds in using the contractor for transportation for medical services as well.

The proposal envisions a new class of officer, called a “custody officer” to be trained in prisoner transport and employed by a private company. The security firm would be responsible for hiring officers and buying a vehicle suitable for prisoner transport.

Making the argument for outsourcing transport duties, the report notes that either option “would assist with demands on Prison staff and police auxiliary, whose skills are desperately required elsewhere. Other areas of work are being neglected or are suffering as a result of these resources having to be used for escort services.”

If government accepts the proposal in an outline business case, the program would require legislative changes to make the outsourcing legal and recognize “custody officers.”

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  1. The proposal envisions a new class of officer, called a “custody officer” to be trained in prisoner transport and employed by a private company. The security firm would be responsible for hiring officers and buying a vehicle suitable for prisoner transport.

    This is a very interesting development, indeed.

    Just some months ago, the RCIPS high command came on record as saying they were suffering from a man-power shortage because of the deployment of gazzetted police officers having to carry out essential but non-policing duties, taking them away from their core duties.

    Now, the prison service is saying essentially the same thing, although, imo, prisoner transport is an essential core prison-officer duty, as is prisoner security and care.

    The option of out-sourcing prisoner transport to a private security firm is as good as any other option designed to save money for the Govt. but it raises further important questions.

    As I’ve pointed out in my comments on the RCIPS situation, the issue surrounding private security companies and employees in Cayman is one of a lack of any real authority more than any other private citizen and a lack of training in the basics skills to do the job, and a lack of any education on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the officers are working.

    To upgrade the duties of private security officers in Cayman, most of whom are foreign nationals on work permits, to carry out the duties of properly trained and authorised law-enforcement officers, that situation would have to change drastically and quickly.

    Is there any intention or plans by the CI Govt. in that respect ?

    With a lack of respect for the real authorities in Cayman already very evident, the concerns of prisoners over-powering untrained, unarmed and incompetent private security officers who have no real authority or means to stop them, and escaping custody is a real one.

    Hopefully, this plan will be given full consideration before any decisions are made that might make an already bad situation, even worse.