Cayman Islands prisons boss Neil Lavis has informed senior staff and Home Affairs Ministry officials of his intention to leave his post before the end of the year.
The surprise decision to step down comes five months after Mr. Lavis, a veteran U.K. prisons manager, inked a new contract that would have kept him on as head of Her Majesty’s Prisons Service in the Cayman Islands through mid-2020.
According to an announcement Mr. Lavis sent to some prison staffers Monday, which was seen by the Cayman Compass: “I have decided to leave the Cayman service as director and return home. I will be going before Christmas and the family in the new year.”
Mr. Lavis indicated in the Monday communication that he had not informed all prison staff members at that time, but that he intended to do so Tuesday. He did not respond to Cayman Compass emails seeking comment on the situation.
The Compass contacted Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Home Affairs Ministry Chief Officer Dax Basdeo Tuesday about Mr. Lavis’s decision. Mr. Manderson said he was aware of the decision, but deferred comment to Mr. Basdeo.
Mr. Basdeo confirmed Mr. Lavis’s resignation, but did not provide any further details.
Mr. Lavis first arrived in Cayman in June 2013, replacing former prisons boss Dwight Scott who retired in late 2012 after a number of scandals beset the prison system. Mr. Lavis’s initial four-year contract was renewed in June of this year for a further three years.
The prisons boss did not have an easy run of things during the past two years. A scandal involving a prisons deputy director attempting to use hidden camera surveillance on another prisons officer became public knowledge and ended in a falling out among senior prisons staff. The prisons officer being surveilled was alleged to have been involved in “inappropriate behavior” with prisoners, though she later denied that in an interview with the Compass.
There have also been questions raised concerning the backgrounds of some recent hires at the prisons service, the Compass has learned, which resulted in at least one of the new officers being terminated from employment.
In addition to staff problems, the overcrowded men’s prison, Northward, has seen tensions among prisoners rise within its walls since last year.
Gang-related concerns apparently prompted U.K. officials to make the unusual decision to send two prisoners – Osbourne Douglas and Justin Ramoon – to a U.K. prison to serve their respective decades-long sentences for murder. Ramoon, 25, was sentenced in December last year to 35 years for the murder of Jason Powery. Ramoon’s brother, Douglas, 30, was sent to the U.K. in June for the same murder.
“[Ramoon’s] removal was authorized by the U.K. and Cayman Islands governments in the interests of national security and public safety for the people of the Cayman Islands,” a government statement noted. A similar statement was put out following Douglas’s transfer to the U.K.
Both prisoner transfers have since been challenged in the local courts as being unlawful and contrary to U.K. and Caymanian human rights provisions. Those matters are still pending in the Grand Court.