A new secure facility for young offenders is planned on the site of the Bonaventure Boys Home in West Bay at an estimated cost of around $2.5 million.
The proposal aims to bring Cayman’s prison system into compliance with human rights legislation, which requires young offenders to be housed separately from adult criminals.
The new plan replaces a $10 million project for a youth detention center at Fairbanks in George Town, which was dropped due to funding constraints. Government wrote off nearly $700,000 in spending on that project, started under the United Democratic Party but abandoned by the People’s National Alliance, which briefly took power before the 2013 general election. The foundations of the aborted building are still in place, covered in weeds, in a wooded area off Fairbanks Road.
Minister for Community Affairs Osbourne Bodden said it was more cost effective and convenient in terms of care and treatment to begin again at the Bonaventure site. He said the project was essential to meet obligations under the Bill of Rights.
Government has allocated $2.1 million for the facility, which will have space for seven male and five female prisoners aged 13 to 18. The Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation, which runs the boys home, has raised $500,000 from private sector donors.
Mr. Bodden said the new center would sync with the work being done with lower-risk young offenders at the Bonaventure Boys Home.
“In order for us to offer the proper continuum of care, this is another important cog in the wheel,” he said. “This is something we all need as a society and have been crying out for.”
He said the project would go to planning shortly, and targeted a March ground-breaking.
Garth Arch, chairman of the CAYS Foundation board of directors, said the planned facility at Fairbanks was not cost effective.
“The option of doing it here at Bonaventure was a fraction of the cost of what was proposed at Fairbanks. That was a very sophisticated facility that would have been extremely expensive to operate. This is a more basic facility.”
Currently, Bonaventure takes lower-risk youth offenders into a residential program. Higher-risk offenders go to Eagle House at Northward prison. However, this is not considered significantly separate from the adult prison to meet human rights standards.
Mr. Arch said there were other benefits to having all types of young offenders on one site, at Bonaventure.
“We will now have a facility that covers the whole continuum of care from low risk to the highest risk,” he said. “This will give Bonaventure the whole range of services on one site, so if a child has offended they might go into the secure facility and if they do well, they can perhaps step down into the home.”
He said it would also give young offenders who need to be in a secure facility access to the therapeutic services at Bonaventure.
Much of the labor and many of the services for the new building have been donated. John Doak has produced the designs, AMR Consulting Engineers, Corporate Electric and Roland Bodden and Co. land surveyors have also been involved.
Currently, the only facilities that provide the level of security required for high-risk children are Eagle House at Northward prison and Fairbanks prison.
A prison inspection report in 2013 warned of the dangers of housing young offenders alongside adults.
Minister Bodden noted in a statement, “This project is critical and I am honoured to be a part of it. The ability to adequately address the needs of this population is a great milestone for the Cayman Islands Government in its continued efforts to strengthen the continuum of care for children.”
Attorney General Samuel Bulgin revealed details of the new proposal at the official opening of court last week.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie welcomed the development, saying it is “long overdue.”