Cayman’s prison system is overcrowded, chronically underfunded and in need of urgent investment, the islands’ Human Rights Commission wrote in a statement to a U.K. parliamentary committee.
The statement indicates there has been little progress since a U.K. inspection team labeled Northward “squalid” and “hardly fit for human habitation” in a 2015 report.
The missive from the commission praises the “professional and dedicated” leadership of successive prisons bosses but warns that the infrastructure is crumbling.
“The overall fabric of the buildings remains in dire condition with urgent investment needed,” the commission wrote in a statement submitted to the U.K. government select committee’s ongoing inquiry on the future of the overseas territories. It goes on to state that the commission believes Cayman’s leaders need to move with greater urgency to plan and build a new prison. The commission goes so far as to suggest that failure to act could result in a violation of prisoners’ rights under sections of the Cayman Islands Constitution dealing with freedom from torture and fair treatment of prisoners.
A 2015 inspection of Cayman’s prison system, including the male prison at Northward and the female prison at Fairbanks, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, resulted in a series of damning findings.
The inspection team highlighted “dark, decrepit and dingy” cells infested with cockroaches and other vermin, poor ventilation and an insufficient health center among its greatest concerns.
It recommended that many of the facilities be demolished while the rest undergo complete renovation.
The inspectors wrote, “New prisoner accommodation should be developed that provides safe and secure accommodation commensurate with internationally accepted minimum standards.”
The Human Rights Commission, in its statement published on the inquiry website this week, highlights some progress, including improvements to the Northward Prison kitchen, but suggests a new facility is needed. It updates the U.K. committee on developments, including the establishment of a prisons steering committee which is going through the planning and assessment process for a new prison. But it suggests this process is not moving quickly enough.
It states, “If approved, the procurement and construction would take several more years, meaning that the project is both uncertain and unlikely to be completed for some considerable time; the Commission is of the view that this is an issue which needs to be addressed with greater urgency.”
Despite those concerns, the commission praises prison leaders for the improvements they have made with limited resources and for their timely responses to the commission’s concerns.
It adds, “The Commission fully endorses HMIP’s [Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons] recommendations and urges that immediate steps be taken to remedy the current situation and prevent more severe human rights concerns developing.”
The Compass reached out the Governor’s Office and the Ministry of Home Affairs but no one was immediately available for comment.