Prison investment plans too slow, says HRC

| 18/02/2019 | 36 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward

(CNS): It is no secret that for many years conditions in Cayman Islands prisons have been dire and in desperate need of investment. But in a newly published document the Human Rights Commission detailed the human rights challenges, describing Cayman’s prison system as “overcrowded, chronically underfunded and in need of urgent investment”. The HRC warned that current plans to examine the needs of the system and look at the potential redevelopment of the prisons are moving far too slowly, which means that prisoners are at risk of human rights violations for many more years.

In its written submissions to the UK’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the future of the British Overseas Territories, the HRC outlined a number of issues where the government is in danger of breaching the Cayman Islands Constitution and struggling to meet the requirements of the Bill of Rights.

Concerns about the prisons were among a number of issues that the HRC raised in its submissions, including issues regarding the LGBT community and the need for marriage equality. But the commission also said government should take immediate action regarding the jails to prevent even more severe human rights concerns developing for serving prisoners and those on remand who have not been convicted.

In 2012 and again in 2015 UK inspectors came to the Cayman Islands and produced damning reports about the jails, describing HMP Northward, which remains seriously overcrowded today, as “squalid” and “hardly fit for human habitation”, and recommended that large parts of both the men’s jail and the women’s prison at Fairbanks should be demolished.

The HRC noted that since the 2015 report some improvements have been made but the overall condition of the buildings remains dire. While government has established a steering committee to oversee plans for a new prison, the timetable just to develop the business case is two years.

“If approved, the procurement and construction would take several more years, meaning that the project is both uncertain and unlikely to be completed for some considerable time,” the HRC warned, adding that the issue “needs to be addressed with greater urgency”.

In its submission the commission praised the work of the prison leadership, which has achieved commendable improvements and has acted on human rights concerns despite limited resources. But the HRC said that without immediate and significant investment, prisoners rights, including those that are on remand and have not been convicted, are at continued risk of violation.

Alongside the challenges faced by a prison population of both remand and serving inmates of around 300 men, woman and juveniles, the HRC also raised concerns about the detention and processing of Cuban migrants.

Cuban migrants who reach Cayman waters are either allowed to continue their journey to Central America and then on to the United States, or they land and are processed to be sent back to Cuba unless they apply for political asylum. The repatriation process is done in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Cayman and Cuban governments.

“Both situations raise human rights concerns — in the former these are particularly significant,” the HRC stated, pointing out that allowing them to go back out to sea in flimsy, unsafe vessels without any safety equipment, which is required under Cayman law, is also contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights.

Cubans who remain in Cayman as migrants or asylum seekers are initially incarcerated by the Prison Service. The commission has been instrumental in getting some asylum seekers released but others continue to be detained.

“The commission regards this as arbitrary, unlawful and contrary to Article 31 of the 1951 Convention and the UNHCR guidelines on the detention of asylum seekers,” the HRC wrote, noting that the time it takes for asylum claims is as much as three years.

The HRC also said that there are difficulties in obtaining legal representation for asylum seekers, and while there is a list of lawyers willing to represent them, no legal aid is being granted for proceedings at the immigration tribunal, one of many potential human rights violations faced by Cuban migrants and refugees.

See the written submissions to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee by the HRC and others in the CNS Library

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Category: Crime, Local News, Prison

Comments (36)

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  1. Tobin Frost says:

    HRC need to investigate whats going at the prison and not the prison what kind of joke are they pulling prison officers sexually harassing female refugees yet they not suspended now a prison officer is allegedly stealing from the govt who are paying for their housing.Why is a prison officer involved in housing refugees, sounds like a serious independent investigation is needed and not by those who are suspected of violating law.The whole thing sounds like a serious conflict of interest and needs to be looked into by the ACC also.UN Charter on refugees

  2. Suspects still dressup in Uniforms says:

    The Plywood bandits were never caught, i wonder if the HRC can reach out to some their clientele who may be able to finger these persons because we have one solid clue or lead, it was not prisoners who stole those building supplies!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh no not this again only people that will benefit from this will be the same ones who stole all those building materials after Hurricane Ivan please find out where all that plywood went before we start a new project thanks old buddie! CNS please look into this before we the citizens of this island are fleeced yet again.

  4. Prison building Scam says:

    Investment in Northward prison has too serious problems as will be rife with Fraud and theft and corruption that has gone on for years right under the noses of our dear government and in some instances with their knowledge and complicity The proof of this look at the amount of apartments and business assets of certain individuals even the food was being stolen at some point. Even prisoners skills have been missused to aid in personal home and repairs and construction projects for senior people and even high government officials. Any director who tries to look into or stop this is removed by the forces or elements behind this back by their government politicos and cronies. Any improvement has to be carefully scrutinize for any conflict of interest. Please pass the standards in public life law Cayman those who oppose this law need to be removed from political office.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Decriminalize Ganja = lower prison population

    • Anonymous says:

      Long term solutions that do not address the issues being faced right now. Same with the courts.

      Also you would be surprised by how little the population decreases

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can I just get a raise in my wages ??? My grand father was recieving $14 per hour in 1979.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Send their ass to Guantanamo. They don’t deserve any better conditions than the inmates at the Humane Society.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The HRC does some good work on behalf of the people of the Cayman Islands. That being said, their contributions oftentimes don’t include a realistic assessment of the costs associated with providing or implementing what they are advocating for. Their assessments need to be tempered with a dose of financial reality. The taxpayers can’t take on any new taxes. Additionally, we have many elderly people that are going without medication and/or food and we need to set priorities for what is limited resources.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do not pass laws without understanding the cost of implementing them. It is that simple.

    • Anonymous says:

      Limited resources? The government spends over $600 million a year and only 60000 inhabitants, nearly half of whom are not Caymanians with limited rights to government subventions. We are not a poor country. We are a rich one, but with politicians who are reckless with the tax payers money and would rather spend it on vanity projects and things that they think will get them re – elected than social needs.

    • Anonymous says:

      I though prison was supposed to be a place of punishment and not a vacation hotel

  9. Anonymous says:

    No dock. New prison. More money on better teachers, sort out the Health insurance issues. Now that would be government achieving something.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Good. Left them rot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or alternatively try to rehabilitate them at the same time as you punish them so that they can become productive members of society. Unless you’re suggesting everyone who goes to prison should never be let out again society needs people to be rehabilitated.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure, but we should not be spending money to try to rehabilitate foreign nationals back into our society. Into the one they originally came from, perhaps, but almost never into ours.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If they deported non Caymanian criminals after their first offense, there would be a lot more room at the Inn. Just sayin.

    • Anonymous says:

      What are the actual stats of nationality? I’m assuming you don’t know?

      • Anonymous says:

        3 non Caymanians arrested today in Breakers, a few more last week…. it all adds up pretty quickly.

      • Anonymous says:

        Plenty Caymanian, Plenty Expat. It is the Plenty Expat part that should be getting deported after sentence.

      • Anonymous says:

        In 2015: “There were 37 foreign nationals at the time of the inspection, representing 20% of the population; half of these were Jamaican.”

        On that basis there were approximately: 151 Caymanian, 19 Jamaican and 19 from the rest of the world.

        This has probably changed in the last 4 years.

        • Anonymous says:

          Just because the police or prison authorities think someone is Caymanian does not mean they are. Anyone checking those details with immigration?

          Also, anyone granted status can have it revoked, including if granted by cabinet, if they are convicted of an offense.

        • Anonymous says:

          Most of the “Caymanians” are from Jamaican seed. The rest are mainly Jamaicans with status calling themselves Caymanian. thanks Mac.

        • Anonymous says:

          Remember Bobo, jus cos unnah is Caymanian do not mean unnah is not also some foreign nationality.

      • Anonymous says:

        Perhaps not, but it seems neither do they if the formal immigration definitions of who is, and who is not, a Caymanian, are those to be applied.

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