December 2, 2020

Video remand facility a reality

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(L-R) Prison Director Dwight Scott, the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs’ Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush and MLA Ellio Solomon, who chairs the E-Government Committee.

Persons detained at HMP Northward and Fairbanks while on remand will soon address the courts, and consult with their lawyers, from the confines of the penal system, following the introduction of CCTV links.

This development is another component of the e-government drive which continues to evolve behind the scenes.

Set to go live within weeks, the prison system’s new video link is located at HMP Northward. It will allow “virtual” remand hearings, thereby removing the need to shuttle prisoners from the secure compounds, and back.

“We transport some 100 Category-A and -B prisoners and persons on remand weekly, including those charged with capital crimes,” said Prison Director Dwight Scott. Up until now, at least three prison staff and two vehicles have been dedicated to processing and transporting these prisoners.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) resources will also be favourably impacted by this development, as officers will be relieved of transport and security duties.

The CCTV system uses two separate sound-proof rooms at Northward. One, with a ‘dock’, will enable the judiciary to confirm that the inmate is secured in custody, and allow hearings and questioning from the courtroom. A separate room, also equipped with CCTV, will allow confidential conversations between persons on remand and their attorneys.

During a live test this week, the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs’ Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush congratulated the agencies involved in developing the system: “Deploying this technology removes the need to transport dangerous persons outside the prison gates, thereby removing many risk factors. Many issues were taken into consideration, including the human rights of those detained.”

He added, “This is another example of how the Portfolio and its departments are deploying technology to improve efficiency, productivity and public safety and security all at the same time.”

The application of this “live” technology was coordinated by Government’s Computer Services Department, and included input by Hazard Management Cayman Islands as well as private sector companies Creative Tech and Aviation Communications.

The system uses fibre-optic lines and secured microwave links to transmit the conversations, which are encrypted at both ends to prevent interference.

Congratulating all involved in bringing the project to fruition, George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, who chairs the E-Government Committee said, “In addition to enhancing security, speed and access, the project will result in significant savings.” He said the initial cost of some $85,000 will be recouped within eight months, “following which it will result in a significant return on investment.”

This use of technology is also in keeping with the objective of reducing demands on the judicial system and in keeping with public expectations regarding security.

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