Prison rehab project raises hope for change

| 05/07/2017 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service

Fresh Start Programm graduates

(CNS): HMP Northward has one of the highest recidivism rates in the region and the revolving prison door has become a major problem for local authorities. But a new prison-private sector partnership teaching inmates a wide range of construction and workplace skills is already showing signs of real promise after just a few weeks. Last month ten men passed the first part of the pilot project constructing a new building that will become the training centre for the project.

During the course, known as the Fresh Start Vocational Training Programme, the prisoners spent eight weeks working with local construction companies to learn relevant skills and trades that they will need out in the real world.

At the graduation ceremony, Prison Director Neil Lavis pointed out that prison is not just about punishment but about rehabilitation and changing things around so people will not reoffend when they are released.

Key to that is ensuring inmates are equipped with the skills needed to find work. With the odds already stacked against former offenders, as employers are still reluctant to take a chance on them, a lack of skills lessens the chances of them getting work and staying out of trouble once released. Lavis, who said he was delighted with the progress, noted that the goal of the Fresh Start Programme is to reduce inmates’ risk of reoffending by teaching them those marketable skills and providing them with the knowledge they need to find a secure job and reintegrate into society.

Aduke Joseph-Caesar, Prison Service Deputy Director of Rehabilitation, said the programme also aimed to reduce behaviour problems “by replacing inmates’ idle time with constructive work and providing them with the opportunity to meet real life employers”, she said.

Troy Davis, a prison officer who supervised and worked with the nine men and the private sector construction leaders, was full of praise for the inmates, who all learned an enormous amount during the first phase of the project. But he said it was the change in them, which had clearly impressed him, that was equally important.

Davis said it was a really challenging and rewarding experience working with the men. He pointed out how quickly they learned to work as a team on the project, to take responsibility for their part in the work and how during the eight weeks between them there had been virtually no infractions, which would be unheard of if they had not been so intensely occupied. He said that acquiring the new skills was key to the project but learning how to work with others and developing life skills was just as important.

Cayman News Service

Maintenance storage facility built by HMP Northward inmates in the Fresh Start Programme

Ryan Ebanks was the prison team foreman in the first phase and the team included Cory Bowen, Mitchell Ebanks, Leon Hydes, Marcus Manderson, George Mignott, Christopher Myles, Donovan Peterson, Ray Smith and David Tamassa, who will be foreman during the prep work that will continue through the summer ahead of the second phase.

That will see the men begin work on the electrical and plumbing work, as well as the finishing touches on the exterior and interior of the new training building.

The project partners and instructors included Brent McComb from the Phoenix Group, Neil Armstrong of Clan Construction and Eric Kline from Encompass Cayman. Various local companies, such as Supermix Cayman, A.L. Thompson’s, Cox Lumber, Flowers Group and Kirk Home Centre donated materials and supplies.

McComb urged others in the community to join in and help with the training aspect of the project. With everyone anticipating the success of the project, those involved were hopeful it can grow and turn inmates into skilled workers, ready to successfully integrate back into society at the end of their time.

The new minister responsible for prisons, Tara Rivers, was overseas at the time of the ceremony but she has offered her backing for the project. “I strongly believe in the overall goal of this rehabilitation programme, and the avenue it paves for inmates to have a better chance at a new life after prison,” she said in a release after the event.

The programme is being designed to give the prisoners involved a certificate of completion for each stage that has been approved by the Cayman Contractors Association, which will add value for the training to other potential employers.

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (18)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sure. I believe in second chances. But be careful whom we offer them to. Deviants don’t assault women because they don’t have a good job.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think this is a perfectly timed editorial questioning if there is as much tension inside the prison like was just presented in another news source, judging by the list of people who are taking part in this project.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Congrats to all involved!

  4. Jimbo says:

    Easily the best Management at northward team at Northward prison finally working together

  5. This is excellent news. Now if only we could have a vocational/ trade school set up on island to train Caymanians with vocational skills sorely in demand here. It can be done because it has already been done on other Caribbean islands.

    Full marks to the companies involved with this project.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we can get these set up then we might actually change the trend of training prisoners in rehabilitation into training honest employees and reducing criminality and convictions in the first place~that’s a much better plan!

    • Anonymous says:

      I was thinking the same thing. This is a great idea to lower recidivism, but it should be a two-pronged approach, with the other prong being teaching people these skills before they go to Northward in the first place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good recommendation 12.26pm. We have thousands of Technical Colleges all over the UK for this type of further education. Each individual is means tested and they do have to pay for this training. However, if they are unable to contribute, the Government steps in and covers the cost. We want our children of the future to be educated to a standard to be employed and be employable. There are hundreds of subjects and trades, including Hospitality, which is plentiful in Cayman, and of course Construction which is ever growing on our island. We have apprenticeships for young people with various firms as I’m sure you must have – hopefully! To which they are allowed on a day release basis to further their knowledge in colleges for the trade they have chosen. They receive academic qualifications relating to this trade at the end of the term. This is basic training! I am astounded if Cayman has not got this basic need in place. You are not a 3rd world country. This gives these youngsters hope and incentive to gain the achievements they desire without attending University. If this facility is not currently in place you are in dire need of Government contribution for this training facility. Let’s educate your people – Caymanians to run this country, to be employed in top jobs then you won’t need personnel from overseas. Many postings in this site are constantly criticising work permit holders. Well, folks, educate yourselves then all us permit holders will be out of jobs!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think this is an excellent programme that’s been introduced. It will give, hopefully, these inmates an insight into what could be achieved when they are eventually released. An incentive to turn their lives around and lead a life in the right direction and not, hopefully, to reoffend and go back to Northward or even worse, that BA flight to London, or Con Air as it was recently described as. If the truth is known, no person in their right mind wants to be locked up away from their friends and family 23hrs out of 24 of the day. To waste their young lives for many years for the sake of some stupid crime that doesn’t pay that good anyway. Life is precious and it goes so very quickly. Only once we pass through this life, there are no second chances. This is not a trial. Let’s get the most out of each and every day. Let’s enjoy our beautiful babies, let’s wake and hear the birds sing in the morning, the freedom we have in the Cayman Islands. There are many young as well as old people in the cemetery that would love to be walking the beaches of these islands. Let’s don’t waste your lives all you young criminals out there.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I keep saying it. So many great things are happening in our civil service. Congrats Prison Service.

  8. Messenjah says:

    This is a positive step in the right direction. However, this is but one small piece of prison rehab. Proper sentence planning and especially outreach services is desperately needed in order to transition these men back into to society the right way.
    Hopefully some of the same companies that are “helping” and seemed to be impressed by the talent will end up offering a job to these men. Now that would be a refreshing change.

    I guess Lavis had to wait to get Ceasar back to work to start this programme! Lol!

  9. Veritas says:

    Full marks to all involved, but why don’t we have a trade school for school leavers?.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because, 9:49am, going back as far as Benson Ebanks in the 1970s trying to introduce a trade school, Caymanians said they did not want it. Their children were not going to do these jobs “Honduranians” and “Jamaicians” were supposed to do. Their kids were to get jobs in the banks. We have never recovered from that mentality which led to “Caymanian” being a qualification, not a mere indicator of where one was born and to whom.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yep. Heard and saw this when I was a student at CIHS in late 80s and early 90s.

        Every damn parent thought their child should be a lawyer/accountant. Guess what!?! We’re not all capable of the demands in those jobs. They would have been far better off encouraging their kids to train for something they COULD do.

        Those same ones that turned up their nose at construction, hotel jobs, etc probably wish they had done it.

  10. Isaac says:

    Everyone deserves a second change and this is a step in the right direction. Now the next step is to assure potential employers to support this initiative.

  11. Laurie Welcome says:

    This is a step in the right direction.

    • Sharkey says:

      I agree Laurie that it’s good step in the right direction . But I think that they should have to do a few more building projects and spend more time learning all the other basics of life on the outside in society . Like going to work for one year and passing a minimum of 85 percent on what is required to be a great employee .

      But they all looks proud of their work , but I didn’t Watson or the Accountant or the College Professor , they should all be included too learning a different trade and what hard work is all about .

      • Edgar A. Poe says:

        Not because they are in prison does it mean they do not have the necessary education or ambition to have and hold a job. Too many of our young people have tried over and over to get jobs and have been unsuccessful. Employers do not make it easy when they require 5+ years of experience, multiple degrees, etc. even for a mediocre job. How can one get experience if no-one is willing to hire them in the first place ???? I am not saying ALL of them have tried and failed but I am quite sure it is more than a few. Lack of opportunity has driven more than one person to take up crime as their means of survival.


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