Neighbors concerned over youth detention plan

Ministry to meet with residents

Government officials will meet with neighbors of the Bonaventure Boys Home in West Bay this month in an effort to allay concerns about a new youth detention facility planned for the site.

A secure facility with space for up to a dozen young offenders is planned at a cost of around $2.5 million, government revealed in January.

The proposal is set to go before the Central Planning Authority in the coming months and is already raising concerns among residents worried about potentially high-risk offenders moving into the neighborhood.

Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden acknowledged he had received concerns from residents in the area, including the home owners’ association of the nearby Coral Gables subdivision.

He said a presentation is being arranged for home owners and for the West Bay legislators in an effort to reassure them that the facility poses no additional risks in the area.

He said the detention center would be a secure facility that complements the work already being done with lower risk offenders in a home environment on the same site.

Kerith McCoy, one of the residents in the Coral Gables subdivision, in a letter addressed to Mr. Bodden, Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie and West Bay legislators, outlined some of the objections to the plan.

“The construction of a detention facility to house serious criminal offenders immediately adjacent to an established residential community is highly inappropriate and, indeed, grossly unsafe,” Mr. McCoy wrote.

He said the Bonaventure Boys Home was intended for “therapeutic treatment” of lower risk offenders on youth rehabilitation orders.

“The vast difference in purpose and intent between the present and proposed facilities speaks to the inappropriateness of situating the proposed facility on the same site.”

In his letter, Mr. McCoy says he supports the aim of separating youth and adult prisoners, which is the stated motivation for the project. But he questions why this cannot be achieved at the Northward site.

Several residents in Coral Gables are understood to have voiced similar concerns.

A letter from Mr. McCoy’s wife, Mary McCoy, also raises concerns about recent security breaches at the Bonaventure home.

“Fortunately, the present demographic of Bonaventure residents are admittedly not in the ‘high-risk’ category defined by the Minister for Community Affairs, Youth and Sports for the proposed facility. Unfortunately, the past security failures do not encourage my confidence in the system so as to be comfortable with violent offenders being incarcerated in the neighborhood.”

Mr. Bodden said he had not personally received Mr. McCoy’s letter, but indicated he had moved swiftly to arrange a meeting with concerned residents.

He said the facility is badly needed and would not negatively impact the neighborhood.

“I think it is important that everyone sits and understands what’s being proposed and the built-in safeguards for nearby communities,” Mr. Bodden said.

“Our young persons deserve a second chance in life when they mess up, and this facility/youth remand center is being built with exactly that objective in mind, rather than us creating criminals by placing them in the wrong environment.”

He said he hopes the neighbors will see the value of the facility and ultimately support the project.

“I trust we will find an amicable solution to this, as it was never meant to upset anyone in trying to get this done. In fact, quite the opposite was hoped for.”

Government announced plans for the facility in January, saying it would bring Cayman’s prison system into compliance with human rights legislation, which requires young offenders to be housed separately from adult criminals.

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.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Government has lots of land space at the Cuban detention center. Instead of them putting this in Coral Gables residential area, why not consider the area of the detention center, and where the police remand center is. There a careful watch and security is much more prevalent where all eggs can be carried in one basket.

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  2. May be it is time to start looking into building artificial islands, one for a new landfill, another for the youth detention center?
    I have a friend who works in a youth detention center in the US, in a medium size city of 350,000 people. There had never ever been an escape from the facility. Just saying.
    The issue here is that such a small island with so many problems of a large city is not managing their problems as a prudent government would, by preventing them in the first place rather than dealing with consequences. This goes for everything.
    Healthcare is in a pickle because nothing is being done to promote health, other than to bring awareness to something that even a newborn already knows; fundraisers that do absolutely nothing to a real living breathing human being in this country in terms of prevention. Diagnostics presented as prevention when in fact it has nothing to do with it,once you got sick, no mammograms make you healthy. Your elderly are fed with poor nutritional quality food that doesn’t promote health and noone cares, yet a check mark is made some place. The island is not pedestrian and bike friendly,here comes obesity.. Your dump silently poisons people,yet nobody cares, for people are not dropping in bunches yet. Cancer strikes one person at a time and does it silently. You can triple the number of doctors in this country, install the cutting edge medical equipment, have the most sophisticated health insurance management, yet it will not add a thing to the illness prevention. Other than occasional speaches about reducing waste line, there seem to be no understanding what illness prevention is. Nutrition is just one small part of it.
    Your youth is criminalised, yet absolutely nothing is being done to prevent it from happening. There are no trade schools to teach youth and those without jobs new skills and technology. Young criminals mature into career criminals being mixed with adults in the same prison.
    Sexual abuse of children in this country is mind blowing, yet your judge’s decisions are dumbfounding.
    Everybody complains and talks nasty about baby-mamas, but what is being done by your churches, your community, your government to prevent this from happening?
    This country can rake money if it starts enforcing its laws and regulations, starting from the traffic law, yet only occasional raids take place.
    Your mentally ill have no facilities, yet protests are against GLBT. Your kids go hungry to school, yet people are on indefinite paid leave while under criminal investigation.
    As you can see everything is backward. Horses out of the barn, start building stronger barns. Or pack your suitcases for a trip to Dubai to learn how to build artificial islands.

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  3. I appreciate The Compass publishing our concerns on this matter. However, a main concern I presented in my objection to the Director of Planning (cc’d to other addressees) was the fact that the Hon. Minister for Community Affairs, Youth & Sports issued the notification of this project publicly via the media without any prior consultation with, or notification to the neighbours of Bonaventure Home or the West Bay community at large. The official notification to neighbours was dated Friday January 13 and the story was published on Tuesday January 17 (apparently printed on Monday January 16). How did Government, and particularly the Ministry, expect that neighbours would be notified over that week-end??

    That unilateral, high-handed and indeed, disrespectful, approach remains a primary concern regarding this project.

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