Gov’t works on framework to monitor prisons

| 09/09/2018
CNS Local Life

(L-R) Sue Bird and Dame Anne Owers, of the Independent Monitoring Board; Matthew Forbes, Head of Governor’s Office; Dr Dax Basdeo, Chief Officer, Home Affairs Ministry; Maria Leng, Deputy Head of Governor’s Office; and Acting Governor Franz Manderson

(CNS Local Life): The government is looking to set up a monitoring framework for prisons and detention centres in Cayman with a board of community members conducting site visits. The monitoring visits will be conducted by a board of community volunteers, which will fall under the Office of the Deputy Governor.

In addition to HMP Northward and Fairbanks, the board will monitor the police and immigration detention centres, said a press release.

“We have identified the need to revisit and update both the terms of reference of the existing Prisons Inspection Board and the framework and standards for its work,” Acting Governor Franz Manderson said. “The goal is to provide regular, independent, preventive monitoring in order to ensure that human rights are upheld and that meaningful accountability is maintained.”

The Bill of Rights in the Cayman Islands Constitutional Order requires that the Cayman Islands Government comply with national and international standards and in doing so ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained for premises designated for incarceration of persons, the press release explained.

“The inmates at Fairbanks, Northward and the various detention centres are members of our society and we need to make sure that we are providing for them in a way that is humane, meets international obligations, and provides them with opportunities to meaningfully and successfully reintegrate into society once they leave the prison system,” said Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers, whose ministry is responsible for prisons.

A two-person team representing the UK’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Prisons was recently in Cayman to assist with setting up the Cayman body. During their 28-31 August visit they provided advice to the government on the way forward and providing training for board members. The Governor’s Office funded the initial visit, and will do the same for the training session for board members, which is being planned for later this year.

The team included Dame Anne Owers, the current National Chair of Independent Monitoring Boards and former Chief Inspector of Prisons and Sue Bird, an IMB member with 10 years’ experience who is also a national trainer for IMB, said the release.

Dame Owers explained during her visit that the goal is to help the Cayman Islands create a framework that is fit for its purpose. “We aren’t coming to say the way we do it in the UK is the way you should do it on Cayman,” she said. “The reason we are here is to find out about the particular circumstances here, the particular challenges and the opportunities so that you can create something here which is special for you and which works for your society, your prisoners, and those who work within your prisons.”

Bird said the role of a prison monitor is to “ensure fairness and decency for those in custody. It’s important that we’re there and it’s important that we are people from everyday society, so that people can respond to us and we can report to the people that need to know and, in turn, create safer prisons and a better society for all.”

During the visit, in addition to meeting a wide variety of stakeholders, the team toured the two prisons and two detention centres.

Dame Owers explained that the information collected from the various interactions will be used to help develop the prisons monitoring framework. “It’s for the benefit of all society that our prisons are places where people learn to live better lives rather than just going on to do what they did before,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to invest in prisons and that’s why it’s important that civil society is present in prisons to reflect back to the rest of society what’s actually going on and what can be helpful.”

Highlighting the value of this work, Director of Prisons Steve Barrett, said, “I am delighted that the Cayman Islands Government has taken steps to establish an Independent Monitoring Board for the Prison Service. Such a board, when fully functioning, will help to ensure that prisoners’ rights are upheld, and that their treatment and management is fair, and that prison regimes are shaped to support their rehabilitation and their ultimate release back to our communities.”

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Category: Civil Service, Prison Service

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