Prisons Monitoring Board Issues First Report
An independent body monitoring the prison system in the Cayman Islands has issued its first report.
The 2019 Annual Report of the Cayman Islands Independent Monitoring Board (CIIMB) that was released, following its recent presentation to Cabinet, is now available on the website of the Office of the Deputy Governor (ODG), at www.odg.gov.ky.
Established in 2019, the CIIMB consists of community volunteers who have been appointed by the Governor to monitor the conditions and treatment of persons sentenced to imprisonment or otherwise detained in the Cayman Islands.
CIIMB members conduct monitoring visits throughout the year and are able to discuss their observations and any concerns, on an ongoing basis, with the Prison Management. However, because the Board reports to the Deputy Governor, it is independent of the Department and Ministry responsible for the prison service. Through its Annual Report, the Board is able to share the outcomes of its monitoring visits for the year.
As part of their monitoring visits, Board members also handle “applications” from prisoners and detainees. Additionally, CIIMB members make themselves available to listen to issues, make further enquiries and provide responses. Prisoners or detainees are able to submit confidential applications to the Board or they can speak to members when they are visiting.
The CIIMB’s monitoring and reporting are organised around the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) four key tests of a healthy custodial environment:
Safety: Prisoners, even the most vulnerable, are held safely;
Respect: Prisoners are treated with respect for their human dignity;
Purposeful activity: Prisoners are able, and expected, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them; and
Rehabilitation and Release Planning: Prisoners are prepared for release into the community and helped to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
The report documents that:
CIIMB members made 369 visits from February to December 2019 to HMP Northward, HMP Fairbanks and the Enhanced Rehabilitation Unit (ERU);
79 applications for support from prisoners were received and dealt with;
11 Board meetings were held in 2019; and
A number of improvements were noted over the monitoring period, including additional personnel, improved overall appearance of Northward, additional vocational training and much-needed repairs.
The Annual Report also includes judgements and areas for development, which are based on findings and observations from the Board’s monitoring activities. A “Management Response” is also included as an appendix to the report, which has been provided to the CIIMB from the Director of Prisons and the Ministry responsible for prisons.
In welcoming the CIIMB’s first Annual report, His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper emphasised the importance of the Board’s work. “The role of the Cayman Islands Independent Monitoring Board (CIIMB) is crucial to providing valuable insights and monitoring to safeguard human rights in a prison environment. I value the independent scrutiny provided by the Board and the continued commitment to monitoring the prison estate,” the Governor stated.
Commenting on the Report, the Governor added: “I am pleased to note a number of recommended improvements were implemented during the reporting period, in particular, around staffing, professional development and the creation of the Enhanced Reintegration Unit. I welcome efforts by the Director of Prisons and the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs to consider and action areas highlighted for development. I want to thank the Board for their annual report and for their continued support to undertake this valuable public service.”
The ODG provides secretariat services to the CIIMB. Deputy Governor, Hon. Franz Manderson explained that the CIIMB provides an important community perspective: “The CIIMB members are not professional inspectors but trained volunteers who serve as the eyes and ears of the community, to monitor what’s happening behind the closed doors of our prisons and places of detention.”
The CIIMB is chaired by Mr. Herbert Crawford, a retired educator and Lay Pastor, whose extensive volunteer services include work with young offenders. Reflecting on the work of the Board, the Chairperson explained that it is both demanding and rewarding. “This is challenging work. It really requires a lot of dedication and commitment from each member. But each of us is here because we realise that we have a unique opportunity to look inside our prisons and places of detention, not as professionals or inspectors, but as persons from our local community who care about respect, decency and humanity. Our goal is to provide feedback that can make a positive difference for prisoners and detainees and all who work within these establishments,” Mr. Crawford said.
Director of Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service (HMCIPS), Mr. Steve Barrett stated: “I am extremely pleased to receive sight of the Independent Monitoring Board’s Annual Report for 2019, and to advise that many of the issues raised in the report have already been addressed. The fact that we now have independent monitoring of our prisons is an indication of the transparent way in which our services are managed and delivered. Very clearly, CIIMB members have been very diligent in the way they have approached the board’s work and that can only be a good thing.”
He added, “Many of the issues contained within the report connect to the significant environmental challenges we face and which we are working through. However, we do need to acknowledge that some aspects of our services need improvement and we will continue to nurture our extremely positive and collaborative partnership with the IMB to drive those improvements.”
The Director also emphasised the prison service’s commitment to upholding the human rights of prisoners. “The basis of our culture is fairness of treatment, the upholding of rights, respect for human dignity, provision of opportunity together with a focus on safety, security and public protection. Many of those sent to prison have lifelong issues connected to addiction, mental ill-health, social deprivation and are imprisoned for offences ranging from minor to very serious. My staff are required to understand the factors that have shaped individual routes into prison and to work with them in ways which are purposeful and which drive improved outcomes for those in custody and for our communities. In that respect, we are on a journey,” Mr. Barrett said.
Deputy Chief Officer, Kathryn Dinspel-Powell commented on behalf of the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs: “The Ministry is grateful to the CIIMB for their observations and comments in the Annual Report ending 31 December 2019. We are grateful to the Board members for their commitment and dedication to working in partnership with the Director of Prisons and his team to enhance the delivery of services to incarcerated offenders.
We have noted the concerns raised in the report and are aware that many of these have either been addressed in full or, are being worked towards by the Director, his team and other key stakeholders. The staff at H.M. Cayman Islands Prison Service are determined to continue working with their partners across all sectors to meet the physical, emotional and criminogenic needs of a complex population and to achieve this through the ongoing development of strong relationships. This approach will also be taken as we move forward with plans to create a modernised prison estate.
“There is great value in the independent monitoring service of the conditions and treatment of offenders that the CIIMB provides, which aligns well with the transparency agenda that has been established within the Prison Service. We look forward to receiving the 2020 report in due course, and to the continued collaboration between the CIIMB and the Prison Director and his team in 2021 and beyond.”
She added, “CIIMB members are local persons from diverse backgrounds, who responded to an open call for volunteers by the Office of the Deputy Governor. They have completed a rigorous training programme, coordinated by the ODG and HMCIPS, and supported by the UK’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for prisons and national trainers for the IMB.”
The current membership of the CIIMB comprises: Mr. Herbert Crawford (Chair), Mrs. Dorothy Davis (Deputy Chair) and as members: Ms Evette Burnell-Harris, Ms Olga Gourzong, Ms Cheryl Myles, Ms Dahlia Miller and Ms Lorna Lumsden.
If you are interested in volunteering to serve as a member of the CIIMB, please send your résumé to CIIMB@gov.ky to request an application form.
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