The Cayman Islands Ministry of Home Affairs is investigating overtime payments to prisons officers working at the Immigration Detention Centre after allegations of favoritism were made regarding some of those payments.
Numerous sources inside the prison operation and with the Home Affairs ministry, which is responsible for public safety in Cayman, have confirmed that the issue involves certain prisons managers “manipulating” the payment of overtime and schedules of prison officers to benefit themselves and favored co-workers.
Prisons Director Neil Lavis raised the issue with the ministry late last year after the prisons received complaints in an anonymous email about the practice of awarding overtime.
The text of a similar letter received by the Cayman Compass states: “The [named prisons manager] for some time now has been manipulating the staff detail to his convenience and friends’ [benefit]. This is done for both the regular running of the prison and the Immigration Detention Center, with the latter being paid overtime.”
The letter writer alleges they took the matter to certain officials at the prison and claimed nothing was done “because they are all football buddies.”
Kathryn Dinspel-Powell, ministry deputy chief officer, with responsibility for prisons, said Tuesday that Mr. Lavis is conducting an internal review of the overtime payments and also asked the ministry to conduct its own separate inquiry “in the interest of transparency.”
The external investigation was undertaken by a “senior member of the ministry’s finance team,” and is near completion, Ms. Dinspel-Powell said. She said the ministry would “be in a position” to comment on its findings after the report was finished.
Since mid-2014, the local prisons service has been staffing the Immigration Detention Centre in Fairbanks, George Town, with its own officers, paying them overtime at a cost of some $1 million per year, according to the latest available budget records. The move was prompted by roughly a dozen escapes between 2013 and early 2014 from the center, which is used to house Cuban nationals who illegally land in the Cayman Islands.
According to sources inside the prisons service, the issue regarding the overtime paid for guarding the detention center is its apparently unequal distribution. Each shift at the detention center on overtime pay is worth about $228 for eight hours worked, according to the prison sources. There are apparently enough shifts to give each prisons officer about eight shifts (eight days) out of the month.
The grousing among staff began when some employees received as many as 16 overtime shifts per month, boosting their monthly pay by more than $3,500, while other staffers only got one overtime shift or none at all.