Of the 20 Cayman Islands inmates who have completed the work placement scheme with the prisons service, 10 have gone on to work in the community, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday.

Mr. McLaughlin said 20 inmates began the program during their sentence at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward. Seventeen completed the course; three did not finish it.

The work placement scheme, developed about two years ago by the prisons service, evaluates inmates, initially placing those who qualify in unpaid work after their release on parole. That work can translate into paid employment if the former inmate successfully completes the first phase.

“To date, the vast majority of paid occupations have been offered by the private sector, with the exception of the fire service, which has offered some [jobs],” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Mr. McLaughlin was responding to a parliamentary question by George Town MLA Winston Connolly who asked what the prisons service was doing to reduce the territory’s re-offending rate.

“To date, the vast majority of paid occupations have been offered by the private sector, with the exception of the fire service, which has offered some [jobs].”

Mr. Connolly said he was concerned about reports he had received indicating the prisons service had “closed down” its vocational training program for inmates for the last year.

The premier said the program had not closed down, but was operating “sporadically” over the past few years due to lack of staff.

“They’re still short of staff for the prison service generally, and the main focus has to be the safety and security,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The prisons service is still struggling with overpopulation.

On Wednesday, Mr. McLaughlin said the population at Northward – the main adult male prison – was 214, or nine above the stated capacity.

The premier said the prison was averaging some 200 prisoners housed there over the past two years.

Mr. McLaughlin said re-offending remains a problem. While there is an “ongoing debate” over exactly what Cayman’s “recidivism rate” might be, due to how that term is defined, Mr. McLaughlin said the prison recorded 16 percent of offenders returning within the past three years.

In addition to the vocational and work placement programs under way at the prisons service, Mr. McLaughlin said the government’s Department of Community Rehabilitation has been given an additional $500,000 in this year’s budget to hire four parole officers to assist in supervision of inmates released on license.

The probation officers provided services to 78 individuals per month, the premier said.

“Stable employment is a key element to reduce re-offending; however, it is but one aspect [of government’s social programs],” he said.

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