Rattray says prison not negligent

| 06/04/2009

(CNS): Dr. William Rattray, the Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation, has said that the Cayman Islands Prison Service (HMCIPS) did not negligently put Sabrina Schirn’s life at risk, following the announcement that a serving prisoner who was on a work release programme had been arrested for her murder. “Whilst recognising that this is a tragedy for the family, it could also undermine public confidence in HMCIPS,” he said before justifying how the work release programme is managed at a media briefing on Friday morning.

“This will be small consolation to the family but I hope that what I have to say will help Sabrina’s family and the wider community to understand that HMCIPS did, and continues to do, everything it can to reduce the risk to any member of the community.”

In what appeared to be an exercise of damage limitation regarding the prison’s responsibility, the commissioner said that before any prisoner can work outside the secure perimeter of HMP Northward, a thorough security risk assessment is undertaken.

“This risk assessment, which examines both static and dynamic factors, is the most sophisticated available. Prior to the introduction of this assessment, HMCIPS conducted an international review of available security risk assessment instruments and settled on the instrument currently used. It is impossible to find, let alone create, a risk assessment instrument that can possibly predict, with 100% certainty, human behaviour,” he added.

Rattray  said he had 33 years as a prison professional and prison professionals have to take risks but he said there was no instrument that can predict human behaviour with one hundred percent certainty.

“Society wants us to ensure secure custody but also wants us to rehabilitate prisoners. Every time we reduce a prisoner’s security level to facilitate his/her rehabilitation we take a risk for, and I repeat again, there is no perfect predictive instrument. Nonetheless, we have confidence in the instruments we use whilst understanding they are not 100% reliable.”

He said the incident was an aberration which could not have been predicted by any instrument currently available to predict human behaviour anywhere in the world.

“HMCIPS is an internationally high performing prison service and our track record, benchmarked internationally, is something the Cayman people can be proud of despite this tragic incident. Having said that, whilst we have confidence in our procedures, clearly, we have begun a thorough review to determine what lessons can be learned.”

Despite the fact that a serving prisoner at HMP Northward has been arrested, Rattray said he has not been found guilty of any crime and therefore he would not focus on the individual who has been arrested as that could both prejudice the investigation and any subsequent prosecution whilst also potentially prejudicing the individual’s right to a fair trial.

Answering questions,Rattray revealed more about the details of how the prisoners on the farm work programme are supervised. He said that some 8-12 prisoners work on 200 acres of open land, and are supervised by two horticultural prison officers.

He said the prisoners on the programme were category C and D but could be serving time for violent offences, though he said they would have had to have served a considerable amount of their sentence before they would be eligible to join. He did, however, say that the 38 year old prisoner that has been arrested for Sabrina’s murder was not serving time for a violent offence. He said there would not be a knee jerk reaction to the situation but there would be a review of the supervision situation.

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  1. Anonymous says:


    You are so right in your comments!!!

    If   "" ALL""    the law abiding cizizens stood up  against the criminal element…….even .if if the law

    breaker is friends or family then the criminals wouldn’t have a chance they would be

    outnumbered…..and no one would need to fear any reprisals against them!!!

    If people do not come forward with knowledge of a crime then they are no better

    than the criminals…..

    Sadly though I cannot see this happening any time soon!

    As you said  see no evil……the code of silence here may be the downfall of this island!!

    I pay for the up and coming generation of young people, they will have their work cut out

    for them.

    I pray the up and coming generation






  2. Anonymous says:

    perhaps now Cayman will see that its liberal sentencing regime is ITS responsiblity and realise that something must be done about it by standing up to criminals instead of turning a blind eye – avoiding jury service – avoiding convicting when they are on jury service.  There is an insidious culture of hear no evil see no evil. No-one will stand up and publicly make the criminal accountable for their acts because they don’t want to get involved or fear retribution.  IT is a public duty to bear witness and take one’s part in the criminal justice system which means giving evidence in court if necessary and approaching their jury service with an open mind instead of viewing that the police are wrong the prosecution are rubbish and everything that comes out of defence counsel’s mouth is the be all and end all.  Until this happens and proper and deterrent sentences are handed down by the courts who continually give the excuse that they will not adopt UK sentencing policy – which incidentally is far more severe than here – because there is some as yet unspecified cultural justification for not doing so – Cayman will continue to slide down the slope of unchecked lawlessness by some individuals, Stop whingeing about it on the news service and do your public duty!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Time to go home DR Rattray….You failed this young girl, her family and the community at large.

    I guess we can now speculate as to how the drugs and other contraband is getting in the prison, if the prisoners are allowed to evidentally roam at large, like naughty "school children."

    If, as you say, the prison was not negligent, then what do you call it? An accident?

  4. OUTRAGED!! says:

    THE GOVERNOR should call for an investigation and Dr, Rattray should be put on leave without pay immediately for the error or FIRED for the nonsence he said in press meeting. The big bucks stop at his desks– so should the Buck!

    Let us not make this one end here…it is ridiculous!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Shame on you Dr. William Rattray!

    Its dispicable that you try to cover for this obviously ineffective system that has cost a young lady her life.

    Once again, no one who is going to be held accountable/responsible for the lack of supervision of these prisoners.

    No one is going to be fired for upholding this blatant slackness.

    As i recall, a similar incident happened in early 2005 when a prisoner on work release shot a man to death in the Scranton area.

    From that incident there should have been drastic reform to the work release program including close supervision of all inmates on work release.

    If this is the prison’s idea of rehab we all need to be extremely concerned.

    The Cayman public cannot and must not accept these poor excuses and slack behaviour from people in positions of responsibility.

    For those of us who remember Mr. Walsham Connolly, a past Prison Director at HMP Northward, he was forced out after a prisoner escape. Note that the escape did not lead to violence or murder.

    There is only one call i would like to make and that is for Dr. William Rattray to submit his resignation letter immediately along with those charged with the responsibility of guarding these prisoners.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Fire will burn yuh !!!

    The marlroad is awash with the case now… and its all starting to make sense;  (1) "why did the police first respond so carefree" ; well apparently the young lady and her troubles was not new to them.  (2) What was she doing up in East End? ; apparently she was a frequent visitor to the prison and its inmates ..  It all adds up to a young woman who was in over her head … not unlike sooo many other young people today.. dabbling in a little trouble here and there … 

    Hopefully the islands young people will get a wakeup call from this… you can’t play with fire and not get burnt !!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    It IS THE PRISON’S FAULT!!!!!!! In the US when prisoners are taken out of the prison aren’t they shackled? Aren’t they guarded by ARMED prison officers! Well I know that the prison officers here will probably never be armed and I guess it’s just as well because if they are letting the prisoners sneak off to have "conjugal" visits with their lady friends in the bush then God knows what they would do if you give them (the prison officers) a gun!! I’m sure they’d be handing them over to the prisoners as well. So I repeat yes it’s the Prison’s fault this has happened to this young lady!. The prison system here is a PATHETIC JOKE!!!! As far as I’m concerned prisoners should not be let out except when it’s their time to get out!! They should be locked up and the key thrown away! If the prison officers watching those men that day had done their job properly this young lady would probably still be alive today! Two prison officers is NOT enough to watch 8 – 12 prisoners who are no-less armed a whole lot better than they are if the prisoners have machettes for crying out loud!! These prison officers had to have known that this man was missing! Or were they sleeping on the job and letting these men do as they feel. My God what a sad sad situation! What a sad pathetic justice system we have on this island! From the police officers right back to the prison officers! I WISH there was still corporal punishment in these island! I bet half these criminals around here would think twice about taking another human being’s life! If they knew they stood a very good chance of hanging I bet you one thing they would think twice!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Iv’e never heard more bull on a tragic incident in all my life. We all need to let the family grieve and also as important let the authorities properly investigate and bring the responsible party to justice.

      Trying this case in public is getting us no where and is probably doing more hinderance than good.

      If the police use force to make an arrest most cry police abuse, if they get assaulted  they cry incompotence, if our loved ones go to jail we want the best care and want to ensure they are treated fairly. If we don’t rehabilitate we will end up with offenders coming out no better than when sentenced.

      If we only critize and offer no solutions we are also part of the problems. Everything we do we could have done differently but does that make us all failures? If an employee of of a supermarket steals off the job and commits murder are we to sue the supermarket because that employee was supposed to be supervised by someone? People must be held accountable for their actions.






  8. Anonymous says:

    A citizen was deprived of her life because of obvious negligence on the part of some.

    Attempts have been made to justify a failure on many fronts. Attempts have been made to lay blame on the victim.

    Even those who commit offences are entitled to protection and justice. 

    If the investigating authorities were able to remove their Pharasiecal lens ( lable the victim as a nuisance to society…stone the woman she is a sinner….she made her bed let her lay in it ) they may have been able to avert a crime, secure intellegence on other matters of other crime).

    If prisoners had harmed a visitor to the area in question it would have been equally as tragic and with tremendous implications. Visitors occasion that route to site-see the little arable land we have. 

    The hurtful excuses provided for this lapse, where a prisoner could do this, and resulting tragedy are unpalatable to say the least. They register a disdain and unaccountability to those who pay while they play. If the same standards applied to previous lapses by local managers of the institution in question, are applied here, we should expect no less than the resignation of the chief. Any other outcome will confirm the message that inequity is alive and will no time soon will it be past.

    The quality of the published response in relation to the incident is horrendous. At best they should have remained silent or just stated " under investigation….". The service of the many good are now compromised by the few and mighty with unwise words to boot.

    We desparately want to rely on, and respect these institutions of great importance to societal order.  Provide us new good reason. Do not attempt to confuse us with insulting analogies. You guarantee our inability to comfortably assist when you need us most.

    We are as indisposable to your success as you are to our community.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Do not allow the prisoners to go to the East End farm any more.  Hire outside help to run that farm.  Since the officers cannot watch over them and know when then come and go, then it is not a good rehab program and needs to be stopped immediately.  Too bad, the good always suffer for the bad, so what’s the difference with the prisoners that are good suffering for the bad, it’s the way life goes. 

    It is obvious that the officers cannot control the farm, therefore the farm must be eliminated all together from the prisoners working in it.  Outside help must be hired instead. 

    Or maybe if a prisoner is known to have no record or reputation of violence then they can be put there.  But if this prisoner did have a record or reputation of violence, then why would they even put him in such freedom like that?  Rattray you don’t seem like you are acting with any common sense in running the rehab programs?  Whatever happened to good old common sense?  This prisoner had a record of violence?  And you arm him with a machette and let him loose in the bush???

  10. Anonymous says:

    Clearly the prison has a role in this situation given one of the men who was held under their supervision has been charged for this violent crime. It sounds like stonewalling to me. This violent crime was not an act of God rather it was the selfish, violent, almost animalistic act that ended the life of a young member of the community.

    Rather I think that reviewing the prison program for what improvements can be made to insure that this never happens again would be a much more constructive response to the concerns of the community.

  11. Anonymous says:

    What do you mean why it is the prison’s fault?  If they are not responisble for ensuring prisoners’ movements are accounted for at all times, what are they responsible for? And if they have so much freedom, why don’t we just let them out? That’s why we have so many that are willing to go back there- it is not really a prison is it? 

    And the prison has the nerve to compare this to a teacher not being able to watch every pupil at every moment- we are talking about PRISONERS.  The prison should be held accountable- so typical in Cayman that they accept no responsibility.  The prison system needs reform badly, starting with the idiot that made that statement.


  12. Anonymous says:

    I do believe it is the prison’s fault as to how this prisoner could commit such a crime.

    Where did he get the time to do this? This is not the first time this kind of crime has happened that involved a prisoner/prisoners. He may not be in there for a violent crime but this person does have a violent record.

    We know this is what happend to Sabrina because this is just the way of this Island. The community knows before the police. The police can’t solve anything "too technical". If this happend in the states this case would of been solved a long time ago. It really is just a shame!

    And if it is not proven and your argument then is "It was not proven so it never happend" Well then RCIPS your job is to find the murderer of this henious crime!"  

    Yes Sabrina should not of went there along with a lot of other people who go looking for these prisoners at whatever location they are at.

    But that does not Justify what happend! It should not have been able to happen. I will repeat: This same crime has happend before with prisoners. The Prison is aware of this, it was never proven but that does not mean it did not happen. They may argue that "It does not mean it happend either". Well isn’t prevention better than cure? This may be a rumor and some of these rumors are indeed made up offacts. But of course we fall back on the RCIPS and the fact that they are useless when it comes to solving murders and the other fact is that there is so much corruption behind a lot of these scenes it is a SHAME!!!!

    How can they try to even make this Island a little better? How can they say they are for the people and fight for a better Island when there is so much corruption and they are infact mostly for themselves? Sure there are good everywhere and a tipmy hat to those who serve there post with dignity and integrity. To the rest "what’s in the dark will come to light, there is the Almighty who will deal with all these types of people accordingly".

  13. Richard Wadd says:

    So let us understand this, 12 prisoners, and 2 (unarmed?) Prison Officers, with no electronic monitoring devices on the prisoners, in a PARTIALLY enclosed area, with Public access. OF COURSE THERE IS NEGLIGENCE !!

    How in the name of reason, can this prisoner be missing for the time it takes to travel 1 mile from the Farm area & back, and the Officers NOT know he was gone?? It is a simple as ‘counting sheep’.

    The people of Cayman are not stupid. It is an insult to our intelligence to even think of issuing such a statement.

    If not negligence, then perhaps complicity !!

  14. noname says:

    Since it appears that the victim went to meet the accused, for whatever reasons, why is this the prison’s fault?   The police and other similar organisations canot be expected to protect people who put themselves in a position of danger. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Whether she went to meet the prisoner or not, it is the Prison’s fault.  They didn’t even know the prisoner had gone missing!!!!  The prisoners are suppose to be watched and not be able to come and go as they please without being noticed.

      Bear in mind this isn’t the first time this has happened.  Wasn’t it a trustee that shot and killed an indiviudal behind Funky Tangs a few years ago??  How many prisoners have gone missing during their work day that was never reported.  The only reason we found out about this one was they killed someone!!!!


  15. Anonymous says:

    Sue them and let’s see what a jury has to say about that.