Prison conditions could be challenged through JR

| 03/08/2016 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward, Grand Cayman

(CNS): Claims by the chair of the Human Rights Commission that, due to its appalling state, HMP Northward cannot house inmates in accordance with either the Cayman Islands constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights should be pursued through a judicial review, a judge has suggested. The conditions at the country’s male prison were brought up by James Austin-Smith last week when he spoke on behalf of Robert Aspinall, who was recently convicted for stealing almost $500,000 from funds he was liquidating while working as a financial executive with Deloitte.

While some people like to describe the prison as a country club, Austin-Smith said that the jail was in such a bad state that the judge could consider it a mitigating factor when it came to assessing how long Aspinall should serve.

However, Justice Tim Owen made it clear in his ruling that the 3½ year sentence he handed down for Aspinall was not reduced in any way to take account of the conditions at Northward. He noted that it would “plainly be wholly wrong for the court to give Mr Aspinall a special discount on sentence because he might find the likely conditions at Northward to be especially unpleasant”.

He said that the remedy would lie in the judicial review process.

Noting that the inspection reports of the prison found grave concerns about the jail, the judge said a judicial review would provide the forum where the executive branch of government could respond to the allegations that the prison was unfit and then justify the continued incarceration of all of the men serving time there, not just Aspinall.

While Austin-Smith has said he believes the prisoners would have a good case, the difficulty for most serving inmates is that they do not have the money to mount a legal challenge to the jail’s conditions. Without a rich sponsor or benefactor, it is very unlikely that an action would reach the courts because it is unlikely that the courts would sanction legal aid for such a claim.

HMP Northward has received a failing grade by the prison inspectorate in two reviews, though improvements were noted in the most recent report.

The current director, Neil Lavis, has been taking action where he can to try and address some of the worst elements of the jail. Security has been improved with a fence upgrade; the juvenile wing has been renovated and a new kitchen has been installed. However, since taking up the job, he has consistently stated that the Cayman Islands is in desperate need of a new prison as it is in an appalling state and overcrowded, and the dated design of the facility presents significant security challenges.

Lavis is, nonetheless, well aware that political support for spending millions of dollars on a new jail is not likely to be forthcoming, and although he is in the process of presenting his case, he has stated on previous occasions that he isn’t expecting to see much increase in his annual $10 million budget.

There has been much public comment over the years about the conditions at HMP Northward but the reality is far removed from the perceptions in the community. Significant parts of the jail, particularly B wing where the bulk of the prisoners are held, has been condemned. It is not only hot, squalid and filthy, it is almost always overcrowded as prison numbers continue to climb.

A wing, the high security unit also known as the basic unit, is also in a terrible condition. Most of the prisoners serving time on that wing are particularly violent offenders, convicted of murder, rape or other violent offences, as well as rival gang members that pose significant security threats. As a result, most of those prisoners are serving their time locked inside their cells for 23 hours a day.

Efforts to address the high rates of recidivism in the Cayman Islands could make things worse. Under the new Conditional Release Law all inmates will serve at least 60% of their term before they are eligible for parole.

And while under the previous law any prisoner who behaved during their time could expect to leave after serving two thirds of their sentence, the new law mandates that the inmates reach a certain level of rehabilitation before their release, either by learning a new skill, having a realistic prospect of finding work or having demonstrably addressed the cause of their offending.

With only a marginal increase in his budget to achieve a turnaround in the prison population in the first instance, the director has warned that this new legislation could see the already packed jail become even more over crowded.

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (27)

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  1. KR says:

    Forgive me if I’m wrong but the whole point of the prison conditions is to deter people from reoffending. If you do the crime, you must pay the time. We all know that HMNP will not have the same luxuries as you do at home hence why they call it a PRISON!

    • Anonymous says:

      Consider yourself forgiven: you are, of course, wrong for a number of reasons.

      Amongst your errors the most significant is that in a democracy the law requires that prisons be designed to deprive the criminal of his/her liberty, not to subject them to conditions that amount to some sort of low-grade torture.

      If you want to live in a society that inflicts those sort of conditions on prisoners then at least make your politicians admit it and vote for it. (Alternatively, move to country where there’s a dictatorship so you can not vote for it.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why is there no talk what can be done to prevent so many in prison to begin with? ? It seems a lot of those who end up in prison were already known in school as trouble makers. Perhaps holding parents/families accountable for their children’s actions from a young age would help to keep some on the right path?

    Those ever increasing amount of churches and their respective leaders who like speak their minds on pretty much every irrelevant topic may actually want to aid the community and put together after school programs for kids who have nowhere else to go after school? Supervised home work and steering them towards sports/arts/music may go a long way to help keep some youth on the right track!

  3. Anonymous says:

    One poster pointed it out that in Cayman, once you served prison time you are pretty much done.

    Yup – that’s exactly right. Sometime the small community mentality is beneficial, other times it is not. Unless you are a politician, the community doesn’t seem to be forgetting or forgiving. So parents should teach their kids accordingly. Once you done something wrong here, there is nowhere to run and hide. You are not living in a big country where you can start over by moving to another corner. If you ran with the wrong crowd, they still will be there when you get out of prison.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I wished there would be just half as much debate in regards to the victims of crimes as there seems to be constant debate about criminals, their life after prison, prison conditions, rehabilitation efforts in prison etc etc.

    Who is there to help victims (especially children) after crime? Has anyone read the recent news article in regards to all those cases in pending in court regarding sexual molestation of minors? What about the Human Right infringements on kids?

    My kids have been victims of a crime (not molestation) and were left traumatized. Nobody except for the family cared how they suffered for years with anxiety issues, fear of the dark and how much we had to pay for Counseling etc.

    I really don’t care what the prison looks like or whether it is up to a certain standard. We all make choices in life whether it is stealing $ 100 (as some poster pointed out) or whether it is a more serious crime. Deal with the consequences!

  5. Hs says:

    The government for years has chosen to keep people in terrible conditions, refusing to invest in a proper facility, patching up and planting trees around it to hide it, disgrace, yes they are criminals but standards mean everything, god help the director trying to do better while the government laughs and builds another school or church,

  6. Anonymous says:

    Racist when it is convenient for persons like you to complain. His many haven’t fled this haven from justice? Aren’t they all white collar crimes? Were their passports confiscated? No. They were left to abscond.

  7. One Man 1 Dan says:

    Two expat high society geezers end up in jail now the whole prison has to be shut down. Wow!!! Now its a problem???? Different strokes for different folks before it was only done never talked about but they are now so embolding by our rinky dink stooges in government.That they can openly challenge anything that they do not like here now.

    • Anonymous says:

      The best solution would be to send all the prisoners to an outsource prison like say Cuba pay the Cuban prison 20 dollars a day for them this would certainly add up to less than 10 mill and would be a great incentive not to offend. do the crime then do the time

  8. Anonymous says:

    The way I see it the prison is there, its condition is known, and all those that enter do so through choice, their choice in breaking the law. Pretty simple, if you don’t want to avail yourself of HMP’s hospitality don’t break the law. Your choice.

    • Anonymous says:

      But not all crimes are equal. For example, someone who stole $100 worth of goods from a store would be subjected to the same conditions as one who committed murder or rape. Furthermore, your argument ignores those who may have been wrongly convicted. Finally, I would argue that the purpose of prison is to remold the offender into a law-abiding citizen rather than solely for punishment. If your justification for poor conditions and treatment is to punish the offender, that does not aid in stopping re-offending nor produce positive change in the offender’s life. Prisons which are much more modern, clean and organised have shown to reduce rates of recidivism (re-offending). In the end, a prison should consist of conditions which allows for positive growth for the offender’s rehabilitation as well as fair conditions which suit the crimes which they have commit.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think the recidivism rates are reflective of an entire process and not just the state of a prison, in that there are more resources in the community and oportunities for ex offenders. Here, once you are a criminal that’s pretty much it. So does it make sense to upgrade one part, and have fully rehabilitated prisioners dumped into an unresponsive community, where, perhaps their only option is to re-offend?

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think that someone will go to priso for stealing 100 dollars.

  9. Anonymous says:

    what a joke…this is a prison…if the good lawyer wants to pick a fight go to central America and argue on behalf of millions in their prisons. CI Prisons are in very good shape comparatively speaking. Human Right not CI Rights…. And CIG should draw up the plans for a new and expanded prison, arm some guards (maybe import some as temp labor) to have them secure the area and start all male prisoners building a new prison; free labor. Train all of them as construction labor while building the new prison in conjunct with some other DART trade they could come up with.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Austin-Smith should have also pointed out to the judge that the pure fact the prison/s are so populated in such a small community is a direct indicator of the failure of Cayman as a society.Is it any wonder they are in the condition that exists? The government has an ‘Out of sight..out of mind’ approach. Northward sits at the end of a secluded road and far from public view, as well as their view. In order to fix the problems with the prison, the problems in our society have to be fixed first, foremost being would be to answer the question of why Cayman suffers such a large incidence of criminality, of all types. Running off for a judicial review is not going to fix these problems. But it never used to be this way, if one was to look back to the era of the 1960’s/ 70’s and prior , while I have no direct numbers to compare, it is safe to say the criminal element back then would have been non existent to today’s level. Caymans answer is to build gated communities and walls to keep out the criminals, rather than build & invest on a cohesive solution to the problem in society.

    • Anonymous says:

      Problem -Drugs. Those who are incarcerated are mainly users, while their are other users who are from the upper echelon in society, who are discreet with their usage. Money and position talks.

      • Anonymous says:

        True, the prisons are over populated with users. But please demonstrate the correlation between money and position producing discreet drug users as opposed to those caught? I don’t think poverty makes one less discreet in their usage, I think stupidity does

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why JR hotel conditions?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Let all the violent offenders out and they can stay in the loony left’s houses.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Not seeing on what basis leave for Judicial Review could be given, JR is to review the legality of decisions taken, does not seem appropriate proceedings for this issue. It would more likely need a Constitutional challenge, using 77A Grand Court Rules…any prisoner could bring such a challenge eg breach of rights – cruel and unusual punishment…..would need a lot of thought to frame such a challenge…..

    • Anonymous says:

      It is unfit for the white collar thief, who is an expat, but if he didn’t have to go their Austin-Smith wouldn’t have commented on the condition within. Anyone, committing a crime should look forward to going to prison if found guilty, knowing that prison does not cater to first class service.
      Is Aspinall better than? He was handed down his HR for crime.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are simply wrong. The Human Rights Comission and Austin-Smith have repeatedly criticized the conditions in Northward (for the mainly Caymanian prisoners held there).

        Your comment carries a racist tone which is completely unjustified.

        • Anonymous says:

          And you me dear friend has chosen to ignore the simple truth. This wasn’t an issue before, especially in the comment field on this site.

          Of course there are mainly Caymanians held at Northward!!! And again, the reason why this wasn’t an issue of concern before! The majority of prisoners held in prisons in the USA are its own citizens. No surprise there. Such is the case with any other country.

          Of course you know that, but saying so does not offer validity to your argument now does it.

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