Interim Prisons Director Steven Barrett said he will review Cayman’s temporary release program for lower-risk inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward, but that he was “not aware of any significant failure” in that system since his arrival in February.
Questions have been raised locally about the program after some higher-profile inmates, such as convicted financial crimes offender Canover Watson, have been spotted in recent months out in the community during daytime hours.
Mr. Watson was sentenced to seven-years’ imprisonment in February 2016 following his conviction for conspiracy to commit fraud on the government in connection with the CarePay swipe-card scheme at the public hospital system. Prison officials confirmed to the Cayman Compass that Mr. Watson was participating in the release on temporary license program and working at a local auto dealership as part of the arrangement.
Cayman’s prisons launched a release on temporary license or ROTL program for inmates last year, which serves as a method of reintroduction to society for offenders selected to participate.
Prisoners are only admitted into the release program if its determined that they do not pose a security risk while they are outside the prison grounds.
Inmates who participate can work for pay at selected companies for between six months and a year, allowing them to have some cash on hand when they finish serving imprisonment terms. In most cases, they are only allowed to be released from prison during normal business hours.
Mr. Barrett, who took over as interim director on Feb. 19, did not comment on any specific prisoner’s situation in the temporary release program. However, he noted the ROTL program is “a standard approach” taken in other jurisdictions to help offenders reintegrate into society.
“It presents a real opportunity to resettle into normal life,” Mr. Barrett said. “The secret to that is to have every applicant to that [program] appropriately assessed.”
Mr. Barrett said there is no requirement for government or the prisons service to notify the general public when anyone, either on temporary release or someone being released from prison outright, gets out of Northward. However, in certain situations, certain crime victims may be notified of the release.
“Is it appropriate to tell the whole world we have somebody coming out on release on temporary license? No,” Mr. Barrett said. “We have a responsibility to ensure that there are adequate controls in place.”
“Everybody’s situation will be different,” he said. “The responsibility for us is to ensure when anybody goes out on a temporary license [that] expectations are set very clearly … both on the side of the prisoner, but also on the side of the employer that is going to work with them on a temporary basis.”
Mr. Barrett said prison staff will periodically visit prisoner work placement locations to verify compliance with the release conditions.
With the exception of murder convictions, all other criminal offenses that carry more than a one-year sentence require the offender, under Cayman’s Conditional Release Law, to serve at least 60 percent of that sentence in prison. If the prisoner is deemed no longer to be a threat to the community, he or she will serve the remainder of the sentence under supervised release. Sentences of a year or less require release after 60 percent of the jail term is served, barring exceptional circumstances.
The law, which took effect in early 2016, replaced parole provisions in the Prisons Law that require a prisoner’s release – unsupervised – at the “earliest release date,” meaning after they have served two-thirds of the sentence. The release under the Prisons Law is regardless of whether the offender is still believed to be a risk to society or whether the prisons system believes they can be rehabilitated.
Under the Conditional Release Law, a prisoner who is sentenced to 10 years would be considered for release after six years. If the prisoner is determined to have been rehabilitated, his or her release would be under licensed supervision for the remaining four years of the sentence.