Juvenile offenders will be making appearances soon in a court of a different kind once they and prison service officers finish building a basketball court in the prison grounds.
The group has already laid out the frame for the court and began laying the foundation by pouring the cement last week. The next steps will include preparing the area with rebar and installing a pole for the hoop.
Prison Director Neil Lavis said the young inmates recently had asked for a basketball court because they did not have one in their exercise yard at Northward Prison.
“Although exercise is mandatory and built into their daily routine, specific sporting equipment and facilities are not a necessity,” Mr. Lavis said in a press release. “So, prison management agreed to fund the building material for the basketball court, not only because it would be a great way for the young men to occupy their time, and focus on fitness, but it would also create an opportunity for them to learn some valuable skills.”
Once the staff and inmates laid out the basketball court’s perimeter, they framed the area, “with the officers closely supervising the cutting and nailing of the wood framing. The teens also got some hands-on experience digging a 3-foot hole with a jackhammer to anchor the basketball hoop,” the press release stated.
According to Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service, Northward currently houses four teens under the age of 18 in a separate unit from adult prisoners. The Children’s Unit includes separate living quarters, association areas, a classroom and an exercise area.
Mr. Lavis said all the teens “got involved and put in the sweat, muscle and time to dig out the area for the court.”
Deputy Director of Rehabilitation Aduke Joseph Caesar said the prison officers helped teach the young men basic construction skills, but also had conversations with them, listened to them and encouraged them.
“This is exactly the kind of project that makes rehabilitation possible,” she said in the statement. “All these young men know is that they are working on a basketball court, but the benefits to them can’t be measured in time or 3-point shots. They are developing positive relationships with adults, learning to work with each other, learning about delayed gratification and possible training and employment options for future careers.”
Director Lavis said while incarcerating children is absolutely the least desirable option for any judicial system or society; it is often a reality.
“Everything beyond the basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, education is an earned privilege in prison,” he said. “Granting the teens the request for a basketball court has already provided mentoring opportunities and shown them the power of teamwork.”