Law paves way to freedom for lifers

| 15/02/2016 | 12 Comments
Cayman News Service

Prisoners at HMP Northward

(CNS): A new law passed in the Legislative Assembly more than one year ago came into effect today, paving the way for inmates serving a life sentence to eventually be freed. The Conditional Release Law, 2014 replaces the parole provisions in the Prison Law and is meant to create a new regime for dealing with all prisoners and their terms of release, including tariffs for lifers and more robust rehabilitation before anyone gets out.

Over the next 24 months all prisoners currently serving life sentences — around two dozen inmates — will appear before a judge to seek a specific tariff for their life term. The law recommends 30 years, though judges will have the discretion to increase or even decrease the term depending on exceptional circumstances.

When a lifer has served the tariff term, their release will not automatic but will be decided by a newly appointed board, which will determine if the prisoner can be released safely. However, all lifers who are released will remain on licence for the rest of their lives.

The new regime requires considerable investment for the rehabilitation of prisoners but the premier’s home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the prison budget, did not appropriate extra funds in this current budget year to cover the new requirements.

It is understood that prison resources have not been boosted sufficiently to deal with new law, which calls for inmates to serve at least 60%, rather than 50%, of their sentences and can only be released when they pose a lower risk to the community and have engaged in a rehabilitation process.

Sources tell CNS that the overcrowding problems at HMP Northward are likely to deteriorate in the coming months as the prison, which is no longer fit for purpose, continues to struggle with rehabilitation and will now have prisoners serving longer terms.

Cayman has a particularly high recidivism rate. Reoffending levels among those released from the local prisons are higher than the rest of the Caribbean and Europe and the prison population is twice the international average on a per capita basis. While the new law is designed to address this, without the necessary increase in resources those goals are unlikely to be achieved, resulting in prisoners serving even more time behind bars and still being released without addressing the issues that led them to criminality in the first place.

The new law, which is supposed to reduce reoffending as identified in the government’s crime reduction strategy, may prove a serious challenge for an already stretched and seriously underfunded system.

“The objectives of the Conditional Release Scheme are to rehabilitate a prisoner to function in society and live a useful life, to protect society from the criminal acts of repeat offenders and to reduce costs of incarceration,” Acting Premier Moses Kirkconnell said Friday.

The law applies to new inmates and lifers in particular. Those already serving determined sentences will not be affected by the change but newly convicted prisoners will now have to serve a minimum of 60% and their release will be entirely dependent on the determined risk levels to the community. In the past inmates have been release purely on the basis of time served and good behaviour, but now prisoners will have to demonstrate that they pose a much lower risk and show evidence of rehabilitation.

All released prisoners who were given a sentence of more than one year will remain on licence until the end of their sentence. Officials said that prisoners who are released will be under the supervision of the Department of Community Rehabilitation and monitored by the police and 911 if an electronic tag is part of the licence conditions. The level of risk will determine licence conditions.

Under the new law, at the time of sentencing new lifers will be given a specific minimum period of incarceration before they are eligible to be considered for conditional release on licence. For existing lifers, as a transitional arrangement, over the next two years pronouncements will be made in open court by judges indicating the tariffs they should serve in sentencing hearings.

The nine member board has been appointed by the governor, though their identities will not be made public until Wednesday, when the latest government gazette is published. That board will make decisions on the release of prisoners on licence, the conditions of a licence (including the variation and cancellation of conditions), the suspension of a licence and the revocation of a licence.

Officials said the members have been trained for by overseas experts funded by the governor’s office. Police, probation officers, prison officers and counsellors have already received training locally.

Conditional Release Law, 2014

Conditional Release of Prisoners Regulations, 2016

Conditional Release Law Fact Sheet

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (12)

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  1. Gray Matter says:

    must be election year….. Get the family vote.

  2. Gus says:

    Better yet, why not put the law abiding citizens in northward cause this law makes no sense. First of all these criminals can not be rehabilitated, secondly why should I bust my chops to pay a mortgage, furniture and they come and steal everything whilst I’m at work and finally who is going to protect us?

  3. Sharkey says:

    I wonder if the release of some of these criminals from prison could come back and bite the Government and who is involved in the release. Would someone be able to sue the Government or the parole board if a criminal kill someone shortly after release ? We know that some of these criminals has not got the help that they needed in prison, so they will come out the same or worse than when they went in , so I see no good outcome. I think that the people of Cayman Islands need to wake up and make Government reconsider this decision. We think that crime is bad now, you wait till more criminals are released.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mmmm…..not a good idea. Especially since electronic tags are very poorly monitored. Perhaps lighter sentences for those caught with minimal amounts of ganga would ease the prison population but really? Let out murderers with unfunded rehab and a very poor system of tag monitoring? I am saying this from personal experience. Had a tagged ex prisoner staying Where I live; she routinely violated curfew, left tag uncharged, no reprecussions except for the occasional 4 am rap on the door waking up the entire family. Aside from that, the police bullied the home owner into agreeing to let this extended family member live there, no papers were signed, then owner had to go to court to have tagged evicted. Crazy.

    • Sonia says:

      come on folks you all have missed the point completely. for one if this law was not passed the EU Court of human right was going to deal with it for us and set the tariff of 15 years for lifers like the UK. We have set the tariff for lifers at 30 years. This means that those lifers currently serving their sentence will be sent back to court and given at least a 30 year sentence unless their are special circumstances. But the big news is that anyone sentenced to say 10 years serves 10 years. Gone are the days when prisoners served a few years and dumped on the streets. Now they will serve 6 years in prison and if granted parole serve the next 4 years under strict supervision. They will have to get a job, be drug tested and subjects to home visits.

      we wanted the revolving door at northward to close- this law does just that.

      thank you Government

  5. Anonymous says:

    Expand the prison not release the prisoners. cut all MLA salaries by 50% and use this money.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is close to impossible for ‘regular’ convicts to gain employment when they leave prison. I say ‘regular’ because it seems a special few are welcomed into the arms of their cronies and employed in positions of trust because they claim to have found religion at the exact time they got caught committing crimes. What resources will be in place for lifers to assimilate themselves into our society? What resources will be in place to help them gain employment, learn a trade, reconnect safely with family and society in general? We beat our chests when we come up with these bright ideas and give zero thought to how to make it work properly. You cant just release someone who has been conditioned to imprisonment for decades and expect them to just figure it out…..

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can think of two lifers in particular for whom release from incarceration at any point in time prior to their natural deaths would be an affront to humanity and all that is decent and good. Their joint crime was so heinous in nature I am at a loss for words.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Don’t you think we already have enough problems without releasing this bunch!?

    • Anonymous says:

      The ones who passed this law has to common sense or conscience. They were given a life sentence. Period. McCandy shot the store owner in the back of his head while he was on his knees. Chee chee throat cut Estrella raped murdered and burnt. Just to name a few. Yep let’s let them out. Give me a reason why??? This was cold blooded murder

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, this sounds real smart.life in prison is just what it means. You have committed such a crime that it warranted this particular sentence. You had your chance and now you are in for LIFE. Period..end of story. Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the time.
    And this board they have put together should be no one local because everyone is family to everyone so these guys will for sure get the earliest release possible.

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