Opposition MLAs vote ‘no’ to prison cash

| 18/08/2020 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service
HMCI Prison Director Steven Barrett

(CNS): A lack of information about where government is spending more than $20 million at the prison, especially when it comes to rehabilitation, led to MLAs on the opposition benches voting against additional appropriations for HMCI Prison Service. But the prison director has said that there is a well established rehabilitation programme to ensure that, as far as is reasonably possible, time in custody is spent purposefully.

Chris Saunders (BTW), in whose constituency HMP Northward, the men’s prison, is located, raised a number of concerns at a Finance Committee meeting last month, which was examining government’s budget changes for 2019. Saunders wanted to know how the annual budget allocated to the jail was being used, after money was moved around in the Ministry of Home Affairs to cover increased prison spending for last year.

The protest vote on the cash came after Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers and Chief Officer Dax Basdeo were unable to answer a number of questions about the day to day operations, current policies, the long term future of the crumbling prison and a missing strategic plan.

Prison Director Steve Barrett was not present as he was taken very ill literally on his way to the hearing and taken to hospital. The situation meant that none of his deputies were aware that he needed a stand-in.

Barrett has since been released from hospital and has apologised to the committee for his unexpected and unavoidable absence. He told CNS that Finance Committee plays an important part in public accountability for appropriation, spending and accounting of public funds. He said that a comprehensive list of all the programmes, courses and opportunities will be provided to the members, as has been requested, including information about costs.

Responding to concerns about the strategic plan for the prison, including plans for supporting rehabilitation, Barrett said that none of the members had asked to see the draft document but he was happy to share it. He explained that the prison service had a strategic plan in place which covered the years 2016-2019 and he has since produced a 2020-2022 plan, which will be discussed with minister and the deputy governor before wider circulation.

But during the back and forth of the committee hearing, it became clear that Saunders and other members were looking for the plans regarding the actual infrastructure and for a new facility rather than the overarching policy document.

“This is a project that has been supported by the government and which is currently following the appropriate procurement process, as required by law,” Barrett told CNS. “At present, this document is to be presented to Cabinet, and should be available to share with members once approved.”

Barrett was keen to stress that the prison service offers a diverse range of rehabilitation services for prisoners, from PhD degrees to cognitive programmes, and does a lot to turn inmates away from a life of crime.

Programmes on offer to prisoners includes community placements on the successful Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) scheme, exposure to external employers and vocational accreditation bodies, but Barrett said he was particularly proud of the relationship with Inspire Cayman Training, which facilitates a range of vocational skills courses with internationally recognised accreditation.

“We also created the first national top-end facility last year, which provides a very important transitional facility for those about to be released into the community,” he said. “The education team alone facilitates, either directly or through external platforms, over 30 subjects, and during 2019 educational attainment by those in our care ranged from basic adult literacy and numeracy to higher education certificates, diplomas and degrees, including one who successfully gained a PhD through self-directed distance learning.”

The rehabilitation services and programmes are “already on the right path”, Barrett said, but he is keen to broaden the portfolio and noted that “these services are delivered in facilities that are not exactly ideal”, though he commended the community-based partners and his staff for their “resilience, fortitude and creativity in enabling and driving these activities”.

The prison director, who is well aware that budget allocations for the prison are always unpopular, said that he was currently recruiting additional prison officers, which will enable them to include two ‘throughcare support officers’, who will provide a voluntary advocacy service for those released from our prisons.

Barrett said that this service will be in addition to the existing post-release services provided by other partners and give a valuable additional safety net during that critical six or seven month period following release.

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Comments (27)

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  1. Uncle Demon says:

    They Say It Take 65,000- 70,000 to house one prisoner per year.

    trust me ive been there…that is BullCrap ..
    and i could a hardly get Bath Rag nor Towels…

    Someone really need check into that.

    Uncle Shanks

  2. A Natalie Julias says:

    It’s clear who is stirring this up, the Director is doing a great job with her out of the way and she is trying to whip up nonsense against him

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why is it be considered good governance for a public-funded entity to backchannel its expenditure reporting privately and directly to MLAs and not publish them openly to the public?

    All public-funded entities should be required to honestly keep track of their money, and be transparent: publishing quarterly and annual reports, along with their management discussions on their public website.

    If we’re really trying to demonstrate efforts to rub out corruption, we need to want to at least pretend to change the entire cultural mindset of Cayman Islands entities and governance. It’s not very convincing so far.

  4. Anonymous says:

    shambolic on many fronts.
    barrett is too smart to stick around and listen to this nonsense.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Leave the prison as it is. It is not a 5 star hotel. Living conditions should be horrible. You got no business in jail. It is not intended to make you comfy.

    • Anonymous says:

      ok then folks will come out worse than when they went in. which leads to cycle of more social problems.put someone in a cage and they will come out an animal.
      modern successful prison systems rehab inmates.
      time to think differently.

    • Anonymous says:

      Every inmate of that prison bar one is going to come out one day and rejoin society. Is it really in our interests to brutalise and dehumanise them while they are there?

      And as for its not being a 5 star hotel, no it isn’t, nor should it be. But is it acceptable that the cells have chicken wire rather than windows? That inmates get bitten by cockroaches in their sleep? That the fabric of the building is so degraded that it creates a security risk?

      If you want to spout off about the state of our prisons, inform yourself of the facts first.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ummm, if you’ve read the gallery of reports, we don’t have nearly enough capacity for all the male crooks that should be in there. You’d rather they be sent home early, to circulate in our community, for lack of space?!? Or prefer they successfully sue for oppressive conditions? We are left fully exposed on both of those options.

  6. Duke of Fairbanks Cavarly says:

    Maybe the opposition should stop taking his marching orders from those constituents living on Berry drive off Beach Bay road and their disciples griping about their missed opportunities and under the table deals to fleece the prison service .Watch out Mr Barrett you are taking the unlawful food and proceeds from the old prison pirates Gang OPPG starving mouths ,who have spent over 20 years perfecting their raping and pillaging techniques of HM prison funds and supplies and contracts. This political blackmail and extortion game now being played is just another tool in the black bag of trickery and witchcraft now deployed against you by benefactors and henchmen of these unlawful schemes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Might want to wait until the director answers the questions. Right now all comments are just bs.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Imagine voting against a program to help Caymanians. What a great way to start your election campaign.

    The bumbling opposition cannot get anything right.

    Shame on all of you. Don’t ever tell me you care about your own people.

    • Anonymous says:

      I didagree. Helping our own is better done by finding ways to help them stay OUT of prison in the first place. First, legalize cannabis. They dont need their entire lives taken away for a natural plant that is slowly but surely and finally not being classed as a drug around the world. Second – education – including 6th form, full attendance, decent teachers, require passing grades. Last, lets stop pretending everyone needs to be in law or finance and recognize talents to work with our hands – vocational training,trade schools and work internships required by local companies in trades. Most of these guys (and gals) have talents. We just need to stop convincing them that they dont!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you an idiot? Are you for real? You do realize that these prisoners have all committed illegal offences, hence the reason they are in prison. Maybe they should make funds available to send people like you for mental health support, as well as the others who liked your suggestion! Stop making such stupid comments!

      • Anonymous says:

        They’ve all committed illegal offences… you don’t say.

        What you’re failing to grasp is that the laws are sometimes not fit for the population. The laws need to change. Smoking weed, and giving people the opportunity to buy weed and jailing them is flogging a dead horse. Legalise it, tax it, cut down on canoes bringing in weapons, reduce prison population for non-violent offenders.

        Also, look at the state of the place. It’s a dump. Yes, it’s not supposed to be nice, but it should be at least fit to house humans. People also work there, and they deserve better.

        You also touch on mental health. That is something that is woeful on this rock, so yeah, get that sorted too.

  9. Anonymous says:

    About time!!!

    How many summers do we see an increase in hiring of officers and overtime.
    Why can’t we spend money on prevention, like education and counseling, proper training of police officers to reduce profiling and better work opportunities ….. prevention will only mean less foreign officers and that’s one negative consequence I will accept.

    • Anonymous says:

      If rehabilitation is not working then get rid of the person responsible for rehabilitation.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about we use the immigration law to reduce the number of criminals? Yes, I know the majority are Caymanian, but literally hundreds of expatriate law breakers can come and remain here with near impunity. How?

    • Duke says:

      Leave the prison director alone. He is doing a great job. I heard Bernie sickening attach on the Director on rooster. Which is not a surprise. Bernie is so out of his league it is staggering. 2021 hurry this sorry bunch has to go.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you can vote for the bumbling Opposition after their performance over the past 3 years you really need to have someone take a good hard look at your heart and brain.

    • Anonymous says:

      You have to feel sorry for the Opposition. They just can’t get anything right.

      I strongly recommend a Mental health break guys. 2021 hurry.

  10. Damned if you damed if you don’t 🙄 says:

    @4:24pm Mr. Saunders has all right to question where the people’s money is being spent.

    The prison director said “…that there is a well established rehabilitation programme to ensure that, as far as is reasonably possible, time in custody is spent purposefully.”

    Now @4:24pm please tell me if that’s a good enough answer for you for a department which have spent 20 million and still looking for more. I don’t know about you but, when I go into Fostrts, to shop I don’t shop with my eyes closed and don’t look at prices and then go home and wonder where I spent and what I bought, I want to know what I’m spending my money on as I’m doing it.

    So @4:24pm move along with that mind set, and be happy that someone in the L.A. is asking the tough questions, even if you don’t like them. They are simply their doing their job!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Blunders stick to what you know.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The last thing Northward Prison needs is a know-it-all like Chris Saunders trying to micro manage it.

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