Prison targets specialist areas to help inmates

| 28/08/2017 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Senior prison staff from HMP Northward will be heading off to the UK soon to take part in specialist training relating to gang violence. The prison service clinical team, forensic psychologist Nina Welsh and correctional counsellor Rachel Whitlock will be undertaking a course on managing gang dynamics in the prison and the delivery of specific services to prisoners identified as gang members. “This is particularly critical for the Prison Service,” said Director Neil Lavis.

Cayman News Service

(L-R) Officer Steve Miller, Officer Nigel Gordon, Director Neil Lavis, Officer
Cherine Usherwood, Officer Shawn Bazil, & Officer O’meil Smith

“With just one male facility, prisoners affiliated with rival gangs are often housed together, creating security and safety challenges. Interventions that encourage gang members to live peacefully inside and outside prison have been demonstrated to improve relationships and reduce violence,” he added.

However, despite the number of young men in Northward with gang affiliations, the management has been relatively successful in keeping prison violence to a minimum. Although the prison is full and press reports earlier this year revealed that there had been a surge in gang tensions within its walls, the director has stated that there has been no increase in violence at Northward.

He told CNS recently that the violence in Northward, when it occurs, has much more to do with day-to-day frustrations of being incarcerated than any gang rivalry. This was supported by written communication sent to CNS from family members of some inmates, who deny that gang rivalry is an issue and that most inmates are seeking the most peaceful way to serve their time.

In some cases ongoing feuds have been buried and forgotten behind the walls of HMP Northward. One inmate serving time for murder responded to a report in The Cayman Reporter published earlier this year suggesting gang rivalry at the prison was at boiling point by stating that a lot of “effort has been made in here to remedy disputes …and building bridges.”

Like other inmates who are serving long sentences, he said he had been baptised and is now a “member of a church, not a member of a gang”. He noted that old rivalries were being addressed and prisoners were working together to help each other get through.

But one area the prison struggles with is mental health, as several inmates are suffering from undiagnosed and diagnosed serious mental illnesses. Lavis said that as a result, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is sponsoring three staff members to attend a course designed to improve how mentally ill prisoners are managed in the prison setting.

“This subject is also particularly relevant for the island, as there is not yet a mental health facility and many persons who are mentally ill end up incarcerated,” Psychologist Nina Welsh said.

Correctional counsellor Alfred McLeod, Supervisor Courtney Waugh and Officer Paul Bonner were selected to attend based on their interaction with mental health clients within the Prison Service. The two-week training will take place at the end of September at the UK training college, followed by secondment to prisons that have robust mental health programmes. Director Lavis said he is keen to take advantage of every opportunity offered to the Prison Service.

“Every training course, workshop and conference put on for development purposes is a tool we can use to advance our service,” he said. “Equipping staff to improve the processes and systems currently in place is critical. We are also extremely grateful to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Prison Service for their foresight and commitment of resources to assist correctional services in the region.”

As well as the specialist gang and mental health management training other staff members will also be going to the UK for a Middle Management Intensive Development Programme with the UK prison service. Caymanian supervisors Troy David and Derron Watson were selected to attend the programme which will include classroom instruction at the Newbold Revel UKPS Training College, and then on-the-job training in prisons around the country. The prisons will range in size from a few hundred prisoners to thousands, from low risk categories to the highest risk prisoners in the country.

Five additional officers will attend the First Line Manager’s Intensive Development Programme at the same training facility. Officers Steve Miller, Shawn Bazil, Cherine Usherwood, O’meil Smith and Nigel Gordon will attend the three-week course, learn basic leadership skills and receive exposure to best practices in the UK Prison Service.

Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers congratulated the officers who submitted applications and were selected.

“Commitment by the HMCIPS to professional development and to the success of the Prison Service is key. I look forward to hearing about the knowledge and experience that they will acquire, and will in turn share with their colleagues as we continue the process of improvements in the Prison Service,” she added.

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I wish gangs were dealt with at a younger age so young ones would not sign up/ and also before the crimes are committed that are putting these men in prison. Also, ten years for firearms ( if not being used when arrested- not in the act of shooting) seems like an awful long time to put someone away especially if their first offense.
    It will be interesting to see what information is brought back from U.K.- hope that it is a successful learning opportunity.




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  2. Elvis says:

    Awesome, looks like they had some first class training too,




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  3. Anonymous says:

    If you do the crime you must do the time. Well at least Director Lavis has his prisoners and officers at heart. I hope the R..C.I.P.S follow suit to bring up the moral and professionalism which the force is very much lacking.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    Schools, Mt. Trashmore, high cost of living, employment, crime prevention?




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    • Anonymous says:

      Addenum : homelessness, social issues , crime increase, need of a vocational school and a Govt who has Caymanians at heart




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  5. Anonymous says:

    Jokers…jokers everywhere….still able to instagram and Facebook from cayman prison




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