Cayman’s new prison boss wants to engage community

| 05/04/2018 | 42 Comments
Cayman Islands Prison Director Steven Barrett

Cayman Islands Prison Director Steven Barrett

(CNS): Steven Barrett, the new prison director, hopes he can engage HMP Northward with the community so that when prisoners are released they will be welcomed back and given a new chance at life in that community. Speaking to CNS just a few weeks after taking over the helm of HM Cayman Islands Prison Service, Barrett said that prisons should be part of, and not separate from, society. Despite the challenges of an overcrowded jail that is no longer fit for purpose, he sees considerable potential for a better future for inmates here and is encouraged by the support he has seen from the community.

Balancing his operational budget between security and rehabilitation at a time when the jail has an inmate count of 213 (its maximum capacity) and a staff roll of 150 officers is not easy, but Barrett told CNS that with the addition of another twenty officers over the next week, he will be able to focus more on programmes that will support the sentencing plans for prisoners.

Although he is facing a situation of one inmate out and another one in, Barrett wants to ensure that the prison work and education programmes are not impacted because that is where the frustrations of inmates can spill over and cause more security problems, creating a vicious circle. From Barrett’s perspective, the most important thing about rehabilitation is breaking cycles in order to get a new outcome for his prisoners, not perpetuating them.

A long-term prison expert, Barrett has come to the Cayman Islands Prison Service as the interim director following the sudden and unexpected departure of Neil Lavis. He has more than thirty years experience in the Scottish prison system but came to Cayman from his most recent job as the Turks and Caicos Islands’ prison boss.

Picking up from where Lavis left off, Barrett is in the process of making his first formal pitch to government over the need for a new modern prison. But he said that until that becomes a reality, he will be making the best of the current facility and is intent on addressing the offending behaviour and risk of his prisoners as well as finding ways to develop their talents and assets. He said that building prisoners’ strengths is as important as addressing the causes of delinquency.

Barrett explained that people are sent to prison for a host of different reasons but turning the lives of inmates around cannot be the responsibility of the prison alone because successful rehabilitation requires community support.

He pointed out that the societal problems that land people in jail also need societal solutions to stop them coming back. However, he is hopeful that, with the right support and resources, the prison can reach the point of being able to offer as good a standard of education and training in the jail as a person could expect to get on the outside. That does depend on help from the community, he said, but so far he is encouraged by the level of support that the prison is getting.

Accepting that some of the inmates in his care have committed dreadful acts and it is important to keep society safe from those who will do them harm, Barrett pointed out that, regardless of their crime, almost every prisoner currently serving time in either Northward or Fairbanks will eventually be returned to the community. He said the public needs to be reassured that they have changed and can be productive members of that community.

The prison rehabilitation programmes depend heavily on staff and Barrett was extremely complimentary of the workforce that he has inherited. He spoke in glowing terms about his team, who he said were working for much longer hours than they needed to be and that the arrival of at least 20 new officers would make a big difference. He noted that prison officers can quickly burn out due to the pressures of the job, and he is keen to give his team the time off they need so they are able to meet the demands of working at the prison.

Barrett said that as he moves forward, he wants to assess where the prison is “light on delivery” when it comes to the rehabilitation of inmates and plug the gaps. However, he was very keen to stress the need for engagement with other public sector agencies as well as the private sector to help prepare prisoners for release and reduce recidivism.

Repeat offending rates at the last assessment some years ago were around 70%, but Barrett said it’s not just about the data as there are many things that can skew figures. He said he wants to understand the narrative of why and how prisoners return, adding that it is important to understand whether or not inmates that ended up back in jail had committed more or less serious offences and why it had happened. He noted that recidivism rates can also be impacted by deportations.

The recent implementation of the Conditional Release Law means that after serving 60% of their sentence, offenders must now demonstrate that they no longer pose a risk to society and have a chance of going straight before they are released. This is a stark change from the previous prison law, which allowed all inmates to be released after serving two-thirds of their time, provided that they had not offended while in jail, without demonstrating any evidence of change.

According to the latest statistics, 86% of inmates that have appeared before the Conditional Release Board have been permitted to leave prison on licence and only one has been recalled.

Barrett said that this change is not necessarily filling the prison, and that the jail is jam-packed for a variety of reasons, including very short-term sentences, which can be one of the hardest for the prison to manage.

Given the inmate numbers and staff shortages, conducting risk assessments and sentence plans for prisoners as they enter the prison and getting them on relevant programmes takes time, he noted. Sometimes when people are jailed for just a few months, they may never get on a relevant programme and then their sentence becomes a purely punitive measure, which will do nothing to improve their chances of staying crime free.

Barrett, who is an advocate of prison reform and the need to change how society views prison, believes that incarceration cannot work as purely punishment and inmates must be offered something different if they are expected to make a change.

That is why he believes the prison must be very much a part of the community, which will pick up the work the prison does to help support offenders after they are released so the rehabilitation journey continues on the outside.

Check back to CNS next week for more about the new prison director’s vision for improving the prison system.

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Category: Local News

Comments (42)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Before lecturing the rest of us, how about eliminating the drugs and contraband from the prison. Then do some work on literacy. The leather-working training is useless.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Ok, Prime Minister here is your chance for your government to hire Caymanians. Give them a chance Alden, why is it being put all on the private sector to hire…let Government hire some of these so called rehabilitated prisoners….

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  2. West Bay Premier says:

    I believe that the criminal Professors needs to understand how criminals got to become criminals . Who thought them to be criminals ? We didn’t teach them , we didn’t have respect for them while they learned to be a criminal . So they didn’t need our help to learn how to be a criminal , so they can learn on their own .

    Sometimes we learn the hard way , meaning that we make a mistake /get ripped off, but we learn from that mistake and never repeat it . If we can learn from our mistakes, why can’t prisoners /criminals learn from their mistakes ? No one was respectful when we made our mistakes .

    So the bottom line here is that they can learn and they have common sense just like me and you and they are not a infant , and they have brought this apond themselves and ended up in prison . Then they shouldn’t expect to be treated like a child . That’s why we don’t imprison children,
    I would have to think that criminals should be treated as criminals , and have to learn the hard way and serve their sentence the hard way , or else they would think that going to prison is a joke and not learn to stay out of prison .

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  3. Debs says:

    On most people, humiliation only serves to create more anger, resentment and separation from society. If you want to stop repeat offences, you have to address the root problems. One of those areas to look at is family and social relations, along with educational gaps, addictions and/or mental health and vocational/work abilities. It has been proven that it takes at least two years working with various community agencies and professionals to assess and address these needs in a manner that keeps people from coming back to prison over and over and having that carry into new generations. Does Cayman want a prison system or a correctional system….they are not the same! Good luck Director Barrett. I sang your song in Cayman 15 years ago and tried to implement evidence-based multi-agency programs and standards, but it fell on deaf ears and was not believed to be worthwhile.

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  4. Mr.D says:

    I think that if we were to invite the prisoners to be more active in community services (assisting with maintenance, road clean up, parks etc.) and the constructions industry. Cayman has a large vocational industry that is very much import from parts.

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  5. lets just keep it 100% says:

    You seem to be missing the whole point, if there is no comprehensive plan to rehabilitate which there never was.

    How do you expect prisoners to become that “productive citizen”? aren’t social etiquette and norms not learned over time?

    You can’t take a person who is not skilled, groomed, non-educated or containing that needed emotional intelligence and expect they are going to adhere to the laws or the standards of society.

    whether it be with our education system or prison system we keep falling short with our Caymanian men and then continue to point the finger and say they need to do better.

    A moral compass has to be trained into a person it’s not there at birth, and the reality is with so many broken homes under educated Caymanians never properly groomed in Christian morals how do we expect them to get it right the first time?

    They say it takes a village to raise a child, but can we honestly say we as Caymanians are training up our children and working at keeping them on the right path? Or are we only about self and where we want to go as an individual not focusing only anyone else?

    But yet we expect to have everyone functioning as a productive member of society. We need to fix the social divide and help these people from reoffending before we are stuck in such a bad repeat cycle that keeps getting worst from generation to generation. Then were trying to look back and say where did we go wrong, where is that so-call island of peace and tranquility?

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  6. West Bay Premier says:

    I would think that if these prisoners are made to do more work in the public and guarded and treated like how they do in Nicaragua. The prisoners there have to walk the streets saying what they did and keep repeating while a guard walk behind you with M16 gun .
    Now who see this , would you want to go to prison and be treated like that ? I wouldn’t..
    I will have to believe that the public humiliation on the prisoners should have an impact on their behavior and make them think more about the reasons why they are in prison .
    The more humiliating treatment that the prisoners gets the better chances that they will realize what they have done is wrong and they shouldn’t do it again .

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cruel and unusual much? While I believe in community service I don’t think humiliation will ever work. It would just piss me off more.

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      • West Bay Premier says:

        Anonymous 7:46 am , are you suggesting that prisoners spend their sentence living a cushy life in prison ? I think that’s the problem today why the prison is full , and those that were released can’t wait to go back .
        I would say that it’s time to try something different with prisoners, or we would have to build a bigger and better with A/C and real beds prison . Can we afford that ? Or would it be cheaper/smarter to take a different approach to get them rehabilitated . I know that what I suggested sounds cruel , but the old way isn’t workig , is it ? And if you were a prisoner, and you got pissed off , what would you be able to do about it , but to get more pissed off until you realize who is right and what is wrong .

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        • Anonymous says:

          How about treating them with respect while teaching them skills and letting them learn a trade so when they get out they can get a job to support themselves. Community service is also a plus if done respectfully.

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    • Charles Darwin says:

      In a small place like this, that’s a quick way to further completely ruin your reputation and killing any chance of acquiring employment once released. What does this lead to? Increased crime (stealing to survive, etc), then re-incarceration.

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      • West Bay Premier says:

        @ Charles Darwin , have you ever hear of forgiveness . I can know that one was a prisoners, but if he/she comes across to me as a different person from the pass , yes I will give them a chance and I am sure there’s more like me .
        Remember that the prisoner ruined his reputation and it’s up to him to re-build it .

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    • Anonymous says:

      That is completely false. That does not happen in Nicaragua. – from an actual Nicaragua

      • West Bay Premier says:

        You must be a 20 year old Nicaraguan, but don’t tell me what I saw with my 2 eyes and heard with my 2 ears in Bluefield Nicaragua is false, ask your mama and papa .

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Question: As he appears to be only dealing with Northward Prison can News Service please advise who is responsible for the Fairbanks Prison. Just asking, because while this place is not over crowded etc. etc. there is no rehabilitation in place for the inmates.

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  8. Jimmy Boyle says:

    If this man has worked in Bar, Shotts and Glenochil (which he probably has) then he knows what’s required. Northward is Butlins compared to those toilets.

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  9. West Bay Premier says:

    I think that Mr Barrett has the wrong perception in thinking that these criminals should be excepted back in society so easy .
    I would say that the prisoners need to show that they are willing to be productive citizens and are ready to except the Laws of society .

    I believe that he should be doing a lot more work in knowing that they are ready to be released and excepted back in society . Because it wouldn’t be easy for some of their victims to face them again . Considering how small the Island are .

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    • lets just keep it 100% says:

      You seem to be missing the whole point, if there is no comprehensive plan to rehabilitate which there never was.

      How do you expect prisoners to become that “productive citizen”? aren’t social etiquette and norms not learned over time?

      You can’t take a person who is not skilled, groomed, non-educated or containing that needed emotional intelligence and expect they are going to adhere to the laws or the standards of society.

      whether it be with our education system or prison system we keep falling short with our Caymanian men and then continue to point the finger and say they need to do better.

      A moral compass has to be trained into a person it’s not there at birth, and the reality is with so many broken homes under educated Caymanians never properly groomed in Christian morals how do we expect them to get it right the first time?

      They say it takes a village to raise a child, but can we honestly say we as Caymanians are training up our children and working at keeping them on the right path? Or are we only about self and where we want to go as an individual not focusing only anyone else?

      But yet we expect to have everyone functioning as a productive member of society. We need to fix the social divide and help these people from reoffending before we are stuck in such a bad repeat cycle that keeps getting worst from generation to generation. Then were trying to look back and say where did we go wrong, where is that so-call island of peace and tranquility?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Recidivism is alive and well in the Cayman Islands.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    This guy is clearly new to the Island, know your prisoners, how many are repeat prolific offenders. He likely not long for this job. Great speech though saying all the right things. Start rehabbing repeat rapist and conditional release to lower numbers.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Abandon the current prison (maybe re-assign as a temporary / jail facility) and construct an isolated, modern+minimalist, efficient, state-of-the-art facility on one of the sister islands – complete with video link to (proposed) new court facility.

    As it is the same jurisdiction it will safeguard the human rights concerns of prisoners while serving as the best deterrent we have ever seen.
    Furthermore, if done correctly, it will create a significant breakdown in the “directing of criminal activity from behind the walls” issue that plagues the country.

    – Whodatis

    *While we’re at it, let us finally set about decriminalising the consumption (and possession of small amounts) of marijuana.
    This outdated approach has served as the introduction to a rotating-door, criminal lifestyle for almost all of our stigmatised local inmates.

    (Imagine if your country was arresting and imprisoning its marijuana smokers. You would run out of cells in a fortnight.)

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    • Anonymous says:

      Bring back hanging for the treasonous among us.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Why are you so keen to see the death of Whodatis?

        No question where you hail from – definitely recognize the cultural traits.

        😉

        – Who

        • Anonymous says:

          You admitting to treason, Bub?

          • Anonymous says:

            Treason against who or what?

            A “queen” that I don’t recognise or care for on even the best of days?
            If so, then I guess I am.

            Arrest me. Charge me. Imprison me. Throw away the key.

            (Mussy dam 1618 roun ya.)

            foh

            – Who

        • Anonymous says:

          *recognise

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          • Anonymous says:

            Cute.

            However, even your own younger generation in your home country have fully embraced the “American” versions of spelling.

            Apparently your culture and standards are easily replaced.

            It may serve you well to advance your understanding of the times rather than remaining smugly stagnant with an outdated perspective.

    • E. Nygma says:

      I suppose we are going to arrange for visitation to the sister islands too right free of cost to the families of prisoners, and when lawyers need to confer with their clients in private they will have to fly out there

      Are we going to also pay for all the staff to reside permanently on Sister Islands or will will have a rotating door of flights at a loss subsidized by the CIG
      Are the families of officers going to move to the Sister islands as well?
      What happens when there is a storm and the islands infrastructure is damaged who is going to be on the ground keeping the prison stocked up and running

      Talking about increased police presence on island in the case of a breakout or riot, or other issues
      Transporting prisoners to the sister islands en masse ( I have personally seen the caravans used here to transport just one prisoner to a plane and you think moving 200 is a good idea?)
      The effort and extra cost of building brand new secure fit for purpose facilities with backup systems out there on the Sister islands
      Increased shipping needs to ensure the prison is stocked and prepared for
      Increased risk for an even smaller isolated community, a desperate prisoner who thinks he has no chance to escape will likely do something more drastic than an escapee who thinks he can hide out and eventually slip away.

      Half-assed idea trying to set up Alcatraz 2.0 not to mention completely unnecessary

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      • Anonymous says:

        “No” to all suggested subsidies.
        What part of “same jurisdiction” do you not understand?

        Regarding the rest of your concerns, a permanent prison is a permanent prison.
        Once it is in place all other permanent econonic and infrastructural changes will fall into place.

        Your first misstep is the refusal to psychologically release the current setup.

        Also, the mission to counter Whodatis is clearly at the core of your misconceived contribution..but, stay cute Bub.

        – Who

  13. just a prison wife says:

    I hope that this new prison boss gets things in order starting with the prison officers who abuse there authority and torment the prisoners and draw them back out especially when the time is getting close for there category review. They bully the inmates all the time, and lets not begin to speak on the inappropriate behavior between some of the FEMALE OFFICERS and prisoners. In my opinion female officers should work at a all males prison in the 1st place. The food is crapy and half cooked the walls are full of mold and mildew, the phones dont work half the time and the sponges that they sleep on are all tattered and torn. I could go on and on about that place and the people that work there. Hopefully we will see some changes with this new boss and encouragement to the prisoners who are actually doing better and want to do better.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It is a Prison not an Hotel. Perhaps they should provide a suite with a jacuzzi.

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      • Just a prison wife says:

        No I’m not saying that but they shouldn’t be treated like caged animals either or they may begin to act that way and I doubt they want another riot in prison

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    • Good over Evil says:

      Thumbs down all you like. Everything she said is true.

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    • Bin there, seen dat says:

      All very true.
      It is completely inappropriate to have female ‘officers’ in a male prison. Most regard it as an opportunity to ‘get back at men’ and do their best to embarrass and humiliate the inmates.

      Unfortunately there are also male officers who take the job to be able to wear a uniform and throw their weight around.

      Then there are prisoners who are now getting three meals a day and their own bed to sleep on, none of which they ever had before.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    One might disagree that punishment has no deterent effect. Seems a rather extreme position.

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  15. Norman Stanley Fletcher says:

    Mr. Barrett will soon discover that the prison is full of habitual criminals, who accept arrest as an occupational hazard, and presumably accept imprisonment in the same casual manner.

    Of course the usual prisoner ethic is followed by the inmates: 1) Bide your time; 2) Keep your nose clean; And 3) Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Start with making the light offenders clean up the public beaches and roadside garbage. For the non jailable offenses is community service even given out?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you living under a rock?

      • Anonymous says:

        Make laws here like they have in Singapore and i guarantee the crime rate here will reduce (go down) by by 95 % . The criminals here have it too easy, that’s why they are in and out the Prison all the time.

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