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.”