Prison still ‘squalid’, says UK inspector

| 25/06/2015 | 16 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The local prison system still needs significant investment and HMP Northwood remains “decrepit and squalid”, with ganja use prolific among inmates, a UK prison inspector has said. During a return visit to the Cayman Islands to follow up on a damning 2012 report on the state of local prisons, British officials from its independent inspectorate have identified signs of improvement but found Cayman’s prisons and custody suites were still in poor condition, with many problems in the prison system.

Prison Director Neil Lavis was noted as having made a “significant difference”, and there was now more accountability and the indifference of staff towards prisoners was being addressed. However, the follow up report, some three years after the original damning inspection, pointed to a catalogue of problems with both the facilities and the system.

Treatment of prisoners was still said to be poor and inmates continue to report feeling unsafe and facing victimisation from both staff and other prisoners.

“The availability of illegal drugs, particularly marijuana, in Northward remained high,” the officials said.

Describing both prisons as being in “very poor condition”, the report said HMP Fairbanks resembled a storage facility and was an oppressive environment, while HMP Northward was “decrepit and squalid”.

Once the conditional release bill, which was passed the last year, is implemented, the issue of meaningful rehabilitation will be front and centre for the prison service. But the 2015 report found too few prisoners are engaged in purposeful activity that might better equip them for resettlement.

Nick Hardwick, the UK’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the updated report demonstrated the importance of inspections of facilities, such as prisons, that are normally hidden from public view and the report had encouraged the local authorities to make improvements. .

“The Cayman authorities have demonstrated confidence and courage in engaging in this process,” the UK prison boss said. “Northward and Fairbanks were still not good prisons. There was much to do to make them better. The prisons need urgent investment, improved joint working with other public services and strong support for the Director. That said, improvement was evident and the prisons were more hopeful places.”

Hardwick said there was some distance still to be travelled and the custodial facilities in Cayman need to be subject to regular, independent preventive monitoring in order to ensure that human rights are upheld and accountability is maintained.

The inspectors also visited the police custody suites at George Town, Bodden Town and the police marine unit base, as well as the court cells in George Town. Despite some improvements in the custody process since the previous inspection, the cells at GTPS, described in 2012 as “barely fit for human habitation” had not changed. The inspectors noted the development of the new custody suite at Fairbanks but despite being almost complete, its opening continues to be delayed.

The custody suite at the courthouse also remained inadequate and the inspectors said that custody practice in general was inconsistent, with no clear formal policies or standards or coordination and cooperation between partner agencies.

Lavis recently spoke with CNS about the multiple challenges he has faced at the prison. He said he had been hopeful of a more positive response from the follow-up inspection because much work had been done by the prisoners themselves to improve the security of HMP Northward, with repairs to buildings and the enhancements to the prison parameters. But Lavis also made it clear that, as unpopular as it may be to make the investment required in the local prison system, Cayman needs a new secure jail.

The current facility has a security level that would be fine for low category offenders, Lavis explained, but Northward is home to a significant number of violent and high security risk ‘category A’ inmates, including murderers, rapists, gunmen and gang leaders.

Cayman Islands police custody suites and court cells report by UK Chief Inspector of Prisons, January 2015

Cayman Islands police custody suites and court cells report by UK Chief Inspector of Prisons, July 2012

Cayman Islands prisons report by UK Chief Inspector of Prisons, January 2015

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Comments (16)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The scumbag criminals should be grateful they have running water and electricity plus a roof over their heads. Set them up in some tents at the Mount Trashmore site.

  2. anonymous says:

    Prison is not supposed to be the Ritz Carlton. Its supposed to be so bad that when they get out they will say, “I never want to be in that hell hole ever again”.
    Its not a picnic nor place to watch TV in a/ced luxury.
    Prison should be a terrible place so people can be slapped into reality and start to think.

  3. Gray Matter says:

    WHAT THE RITZ : Let them sleep in tents , grow their own food , work them to maintain the buildings and grounds , work detail clean up the Islands roadsides.
    For gods sake their are prisoners.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Now we need to see the other 2 reports that say that John Gray High School is “decrepit and squalid”!

    • Cayman_Mom says:

      Couldn’t agree more! Maybe if they work on the schools and raising the moral of the students eventually they will see less young people ending up in prison.

  5. WaYaSay says:

    I know one thing for sure, when Mr. Walchum Conelly was in charge of the prison, there were no reports from the U.K. Prison inspectorate that described the Prison and the prison system as decrepit and squalid. They did their inspections and listed shortcomings that they found but none were this disgraceful and damning. I also do not recall, when it was run and managed by Caymanians that ganja use was prolific throughout the entire prison.

    Once again, we got rid of the Caymanians at the top and replaced them with bright, educated, qualified, competent people from around the world, because Caymanians are not capable…….and what do we now have……squalor, human rights abuses, a security system only fit for low level criminals, cells still in poor condition, many problems in the prison system, indifference of staff towards prisoners ,treatment of prisoners still said to be poor, inmates who continue to report feeling unsafe and facing victimization from both staff and other prisoners, facilities “barely fit for human habitation” in 2012 that had not changed in 2015, no clear formal policies or standards or coordination, ganja throughout the prison etc., etc., etc.

    The man responsible apparently had been hopeful of a more positive response from the follow-up inspection because much work had been done by the prisoners themselves to improve the security of HMP Northward…….are you kidding me?

    IN SPITE OF ALL THIS, Prison Director Neil Lavis was noted in the report as having made a “significant difference”………. Come on man……in what direction?

    What is Mr. Lavis’ solution………..I need more money!

    I do not care what private company I worked for or how buddy, buddy I were with the boss, my ass would have been fired for such a dismal performance assessment!

    Madam Governor, I suggest less cocktail parties and more time spent hauling the bosses of Her Majesty’s Northward Prison and the boss of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service over the coals in the back shed at Governors House!
    Why is this being treated differently than the Fire Department? Why is it that the person who wrote the report is not being sized up for Mr. Lavis’ job?

    Before anyone starts bombing the statements I wrote above….Remember the criticisms, and the praise, were not made by me, they were made by none other than an independent UK prison inspector and Mr. Nick Hardwick, the UK’s Chief Inspector of Prisons!

    • Anonymous says:

      Your memory must be poor, 11:10 or perhaps you just don’t want to remember. The reason the Caymanians were replaced was because the prisoners kept escaping, over and over again. And, yes, there was ganga there at the time. That said, Mr Walsham was one of the nicest, most decent persons you could meet.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am amazed how many people under estimate the horror of being in prison.
    How easy they talk about 70k cost per inmate. You realize that 70 k does not go to the inmate, but the overhead of inefficient running of a prison.
    Legalize weed, and 80% of inmates can go home.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Report was only a couple of years ago, at least 30 more years needed before anything gets done….and 50 independent reports, all ignored…..

  8. The Country With No Plan says:

    $70,000 a year per prisoner is the annual budget divided by an estimated average population. What the public should be asking is how much of it is for rehabilitation – drug abuse counseling, anger management and conflict resolution, vocational and technical training, literacy, etc. Why should you care? One reason and one reason only – THEY WILL ONE DAY BE RELEASED and no ranting, raving and hate is going to change that.

    You don’t need to care about them, but if you care about yourself, your family and your Island, you should take an interest in what is happening in the Prison System – because THEY ARE COMING OUT and might be your neighbor. Start thinking smart!!!!

    By the way, if you would give up your freedom for $70,000 a year maybe you should ask one of the prisoners to switch places – believe me they would in a heart beat!

    • Anonymous says:

      Do we really have to spend money rehabilitating persons we are going to deport? Can we not just pay Cuba or Jamaica to house them and concentrate on rehabilitating those who will live among us after release?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey Tara, you are forcing Caymanians down the private sector’s throats, how about Government hiring a few more especially the prisoners that are released. Have you forgotten the CI Government has one of the highest Work Permit Force???? Practice what you preach!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    The ganja probably helps to keep the prisoner population under control..

  11. Anonymous says:

    One would like to think that the prison condition would be a deterrent, but it doesn’t seem to be.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The problem is how many of these inmates will have access to 75K per year worth of benefits upon release from prison? No one wants to be on the outside of this hotel. Hard working people don’t have access to that kind of money let alone kids who are hungry at school. Why would they want to be rehabilitated? And live a regular life pulling down 65K with hard hours of work??? They may actually be the smart ones in all of this.

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