A planning application for a new youth detention center on the site of the Bonaventure Boy’s Home in West Bay has been “put on hold” because of concerns from neighboring residents about the project.
Government announced plans in January for a new secure facility with space for a dozen young offenders, aged 13 to 18, at a cost of around $2.5 million.
But residents in the neighboring Coral Gables sub-division raised concerns about the proximity of the new center, for higher risk offenders, to their properties.
After meeting with the residents Saturday, government committed to revisiting other options, including alternative locations for the site.
Despite the setback, Minister of Community Affairs Osbourne Bodden said the facility was extremely important for Cayman and vowed to ensure it was built.
“I am cognizant of the urgent need for such a secure facility for children on Youth Rehabilitation Orders,” he said, “and will do all I can to ensure this is built sooner than later.
“The plans already exist for the building and can easily be adapted to another site. The CAYS Foundation is of a like mind and we will ensure this badly needed facility is built by 2018.”
Government has indicated the facility is necessary to fulfil a human rights obligation to separate youth and adult prisoners.
The CAYS Foundation, which runs the Bonaventure Boys Home, had advised that a more secure facility for higher risk offenders on the same site would sync well with the therapeutic work it does with troubled youth in a home environment.
Minister Bodden, announcing the plan last month, said the planned facility would allow Bonaventure to offer the proper continuum of care for youth referred by the courts.
The announcement came as a surprise to residents in the Coral Gables sub-division who felt that they should have been consulted in advance.
One resident, Kerith McCoy, wrote to the Cayman Compass, Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie, Minister Bodden and West Bay’s four legislators to complain about the “inappropriateness” of placing what he described as a “youth prison” on the Bonaventure site. He questioned why a separate youth facility could not be contained within the two existing prison sites.
Following other complaints, including from the Coral Gables homeowners’ association, a meeting was arranged Saturday in West Bay, with ministry officials, CAYS Foundation leaders and the area’s MLAs.
According to a government press release about the meeting, “After hearing from the residents, Minister Bodden promised to take their concerns to caucus for consideration to assist the government in finding a way forward with a new policy decision. In the meantime, the minister advises that the expansion of Bonaventure Boys Home, which is currently before the Central Planning Authority, will be put on hold to give the government time to revisit potential options.”
The Bonaventure plan represents at least the second serious attempt to construct a separate youth detention facility. It replaced 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.