Although it was proposed as a way to relieve stress on Cayman’s overcrowded prisons system, it appears inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward will not be moving to new housing at the Immigration Detention Centre facility for at least a few months.
Ministry of Home Affairs officials said Monday that no firm date has been established to move lower-risk prisoners from Northward in Bodden Town to the detention center in Fairbanks, George Town, largely because the detention center is not ready to house them.
“The [move] date will be determined once the conversion work is completed,” a statement from Interim Prisons Director Steven Barrett read. “The conversion work being done in regards to the relocation of the inmates will allow for the group of Immigration Detention Centre detainees to be housed within the same confined area.
“If detainees remain at the facility, then this will not affect the movement of prisoners from Northward, who will be located into an area being made separate to where the detainees are located.”
At the moment, the government appears ready to move the remaining Cuban detainees away from the lock-up to private accommodations around Grand Cayman. As of Tuesday, there were eight Cuban migrants left in the center while five others had been moved out.
The Cuban migrants are typically not considered to be a public safety threat in the same way a remand prisoner at Northward – one that has been charged, but not convicted of a crime – would be considered. Therefore, putting the two groups together is something prisons and immigration officials are seeking to avoid due to human rights and safety concerns.
However, the migrant center is also not considered a secure facility for the housing of remand prisoners at the moment.
“The facility and converted space will receive security upgrades in order to sufficiently house the inmates that hold a low-security level status,” Mr. Barrett said. He declined to state how much the renovations or improvements to the detention center would cost.
The ministry is also undertaking “remedial works” to clean up the mess at the Immigration Detention Centre, exposed in a Human Rights Commission memo sent to Mr. Barrett earlier this month.
Rotten food, fly infestations, dirty and stopped-up toilets, moldy or damaged showers and inadequate fire prevention systems were all found during an inspection of the Immigration Detention Centre on July 10 by members of the Human Rights Commission.
Commission Chairman James Austin-Smith urged Her Majesty’s Prisons Service in Cayman to respond to concerns raised by the rights group within 48 hours following its visit to the center.
“Due to the extensive nature of the unsanitary conditions, the government must take steps to rectify this situation before the facility becomes uninhabitable and a further health risk,” Mr. Austin-Smith wrote in a July 11 letter, noting that the Cuban detainees themselves have apparently not cleaned their own facilities for some time.
Ministry officials said a plan was already in place to eliminate any health concerns at the detention center.
The number of people held at Cayman’s main adult prisons – Northward for the males and Fairbanks for the females – fluctuates on a daily basis. However, all public safety entities have acknowledged that Cayman Islands public prisons facilities will need more available space, both immediately and in the longer term, to keep up with current and future demands.
As of late June, the adult male prison population on Grand Cayman had reached critical mass, with 221 people being housed at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward – a facility with a stated maximum capacity of 213.
Since at least March this year, Northward Prison has been steadily sending remand prisoners to the RCIPS detention center in Fairbanks, George Town. The police detention center is only meant to house criminal suspects RCIPS officers have arrested, not charged individuals being held in prison awaiting trial.
The police have found themselves with up to 11 remand prisoners from Northward at various times, who must be kept apart from anyone officers arrest in connection with day-to-day operations.
Both Northward Prisoners and remand prisoners being held in the police jail have been “doubled up” in cells, which law enforcement officials have advised against because of security and human rights concerns.