June 23, 2021

The Editor speaks: How long have we all been saying “We need a new prison”?

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Colin Wilson

Over the last twenty-five years and more there have been visits from overseas prison inspectors, prison directors, senior prison officers, judges, MLA’s et.al., and they all say the same thing:

“The Cayman Islands needs a new prison.”

The last UK’s Prison Inspection catalogued a whole list of defects that had to be put right immediately, and it was almost a repeat of the previous one three years before, except for “some improvements”.

In the 2015 Report, Nick Hardwick HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said, “Perhaps our most important criticism concerns the very poor condition of both prisons. Fairbanks resembles a storage facility and was an oppressive environment that provided no stimulation for those held there. Much of Northward was decrepit and squalid. The one exception was the refurbishment of the young persons unit at Northward, but both prisons still needed new investment and refurbishment. The kitchen at Northward was in an appalling state and should be replaced immediately.”

Move forward to now. The situation is the same, if not worse. “Cayman’s prison facilities are not only horribly overcrowded but also unfit for human habitation, with conditions simply unacceptable”. – Prison Director Steve Barrett.

Speaking to CNS, Barrett also said, the “Cayman Islands Prison Service is spending about $11 million per year keeping offenders in appalling conditions. This both undermines the progress of rehabilitating inmates and poses serious challenges to their safety, as well as the security of the facility.

So why hasn’t something been done?

Is it because making our two prisons better doesn’t produce any votes for our MLA’s?

There may be a ray of hope. Government have called for an Outline Business Case (OBC) with an Invitation to Tender having been published.

Tenderers are being asked to submit proposals that will cover the redevelopment of the entire HMP Northward estate, which includes the prison and its junior wing, formerly known as Eagle House Rehabilitation Centre, the Fairbanks.women’s prison.

The tenderers are also required to consider the “existing physical state of the accommodation and other service delivery buildings, prisoners privacy and appropriate ventilation given the high temperatures, supervision needs such as attaining unobstructed lines of sight, human rights considerations, facilities for providing purposeful activities including educational, recreational and vocational, as well as care facilities, the needs of young prisoners and public safety”.

The OBC will identify the investment option that optimises value for money, prepares the scheme for procurement and determines the necessary funding and management arrangements for the successful delivery of the project,

It is only a ray but at last it is a ray in the right direction.

When will politicians realise locking people up costs a lot of money whilst rehabilitation costs a lot less? It is also more productive to all of us.

Let’s hear a new battle cry that has nothing to do with the proposed berthing facility:

“We need a new prison!”

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