Minimum sentences don’t reduce crime, says report

| 15/02/2012

prison cell.JPG(CNS): A report conducted by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada into the state of Cayman’s prison system said that there is no evidence minimum sentences reduce crime. Cayman has mandatory minimum sentences for various offences, including a ten year minimum for anyone convicted after trial of possession of an unlicensed firearm. The experts said that local stakeholders had expressed concerns about the impact minimum sentences had on crime prevention and rehabilitation.  The report has recommended an immediate review of the current slate of offences with minimum sentences to determine if it is the most effective way to respond to offending.

“It is important that legislation … should not operate to frustrate prevention, diversion and rehabilitation strategy.  An appropriate legislative structure should complement, support, and reinforce a successful prevention, diversion and rehabilitation framework,” the authors stated.

They also point out that the United States is reviewing mandatory minimum sentences and crime reduction strategies as a result of the increased costs of incarceration and lack of evidence that they reduce crime.

“What mandatory minimum sentences can do is put an offender into an environment where the offender may form relationships and learn behaviours and attitudes which would lead them into further criminal activity,” the IPAC team warns.

The assessment, which is a comprehensive review of the entire prison system, highlights a number of areas where government should review other existing legislation in order to address the problems faced by the system. Cayman has one of the highest per capita inmate populations in the world as well as very high recidivism rates and the costs of housing people behind bars is become an increasing burden on the public purse as it now accounts for more than 4% of government’s entire spending. 

The report says Cayman needs to make a number of major changes that will need legislative support, from the implementation of the children’s law to provide greater protection to young offenders to a review of the Alternative Sentencing Law, the Probation of Offenders Law, the Penal Code and the Misuse of Drugs Law. It notes the need to facilitate sentences that combine custody with probation.

“Legislation must provide police with the discretion to divert youth offenders and low risk adult offenders to appropriate programs in the community,” the report recommends as a way of reducing the prison population and keeping young people out of the system.

The IPAC team said that the current limits on community service are a barrier to its successful use, which could see victims benefiting from the work of offenders. “In some jurisdictions the offender performs community service for the victim, providing immediate reparation to the victim,” the authors stated.  “This approach also connects the offender with the victim providing a first-hand awareness of the consequence of the criminal behaviour, and provides visible evidence of community restoration.”

The authors said that the Prevention of Crime Group Report made a recommendation in 2010 to broaden community service for minor and first time offenders but no statutory changes have taken place.

The authors also recommended establishing a separate court for young offenders. “Scheduling youth matters at a separate time from adult matters would enable youth appearing in court whether in custody or not to be kept separate from adult offenders,” the authors said, adding it would enable young people to be transported separately between court and jail from adult offenders.

Among the many issues noted by the authors in the comprehensive report were concerns about a lack of transparency related to the operation of the prison. The authors said this is fuelling beliefs that mistreatment of offenders is not addressed and staff are not held accountable for inappropriate behaviour.

“A number of stakeholders provided examples of concern around excessive use of force, inappropriate use of strip searches, arbitrary decision making, administration of medicine to mentally ill inmates, and an ineffective complaint process,” the authors found.

“This is contributing to a lack of confidence in the management of the prison. Although we are not able to speak to the accuracy of the concerns, the fact that these concerns are voiced by a variety of stakeholders means that at the very least action needs to be taken to increase public confidence in the administration of the facility.”

The report reveals that the Prison Inspection Board, which is supposed to increase public confidence via its reports, is expected to provide up to two days’ notice of an inspection and members are taken around the prison by prison officers.  This means the inspection is not made under normal operating conditions but how the prison wants the board to think it operates.  

The IPAC team recommended removing the need for prior notice and accompanying prison officers during inspections — except on the high security block – to increase public confidence in the facility.

“A well-managed prison should have no concern over the receipt of prisoner complaints -‐they are part of the institutional setting,” the authors wrote. “There will undoubtedly be prisoner complaints that verge upon the vexatious or are devoid of substance.  At the same time there will be complaints of substance that will identify prison officers and prisoners.”

The fact that prisoner complaints are required to be provided in an open fashion to officers who in turn forward the complaint to the appropriate person or body means prisoners have no faith in the integrity of the inspection process or the complaints procedure.  

“Any complaint procedure must provide prisoners the comfort of knowing that the process is fair, balanced, unaffected by the prison officer‐prisoner paradigm, and will operate without fear of reprisal within the prison,” the report stated. “From what was described to us about the Complaints procedure, it fails on all counts.”

See full report by the IPAC below.

Category: Crime

Comments (8)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So, who took it upon themselves to pay out money we don't have to the Canadians for this study?

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is also no evidence that having no minimum sentences also does not reduce crime. What should be obvious to any moron is that when violent criminals are in prison they are not on the streets destroying our community.  Minimum sentences should not only be maintained. They should be doubled for violent criminals with any previous convictions for violent crime. Third violent offence – lock them up for a minimum 100 years.

  3. Anonymous says:

    by this logic there is no point in having sentences at all

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am absolutely opposed to any reduction in or elimination of minimum sentenes. It is true that social problems contribute to crime  and that these problems need to be fixed. However the honest citizens need to be protected from the violent crimininals that are ruining our country NOW and best way to do that is to lock the violent criminals up for very long minimum sentences. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    A lot of the report makes sense including the focus on rehabilitation but doing away with minimum sentences does not. Thugs who are put away for long periods of time for gun crimes, rape and murder are off the streets and not terrorisingour streets and homes while they are in prison  The current problem with minimum sentences is that they are too short. If the thugs are back on the street in a short time then that will make it even less likely that people will testify. If there is a concern about prisoners learning criminal behaviour from other criminals then isolate them from each other. 24/7.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In addition to the issues highlighted by the article, the report also addresses concerns with the drug rehabilitation services available to inmates (which CNS will likely address in a different article in the coming days).

    I would suggest that, in conjunction with taking away the two day notice period for prison inspection teams, they include a process whereby the DOP and COP can send in the K9 units unannounced at least 3 times a week. The place is not that big, and sniffer dogs should be able to pinpoint the drugs and keep the prison relatively drug free through frequent, unscheduled searches. That's the first step towards rehabilitation. No amount of counselling will help if the inmate has free access to spliffs 30 minutes later.

    CNS Note: The issue of rehabilitation was addressed in the first article posted on CNS on Monday and we have now attached the full report so readers can see for themselves the issues addressed in the comprehensive report.

  7. Law & Disorder says:

    Yes cayman all the this big tough talk and all these draconian measures and laws implemented by our expert" feel safe crowd" was all a bunch of BS yet millions of $$$$$$$$$ have been poured down the tiolet at our expense and to our detriment. Those responsible and their fool fool advisors should be fired and prosecuted for incompetence and negligence and decieving the public. What a shameful disgrace our leadership is so dumb! The fleecing of Cayman continues unabated.

    Rumour now has it that some of those in power are now seeking certain armed private VIP protection units to protect them from us the unarmed law abiding citizens. Our next set of laws should be laws to make them stop making laws to make money for their friends.

    • WillYaListen! says:

       

      " Our next set of laws should be laws to make them stop making laws to make money for their friends"

      Then there would be no-one running for political office. What 

      would be the point?