Archive for March 20th, 2012

Crime concerns top OT report

| 20/03/2012 | 10 Comments

police car2.jpg(CNS): The result of the UK’s consultation with its overseas territories has revealed that crime and the need for economic diversification remain the leading concerns among the people. Following the open public consultation by the FCO inviting comment from the territories, the report reveals that people from the Cayman Islands submitted the most responses of any territory, making up 35% of the submissions. The report stated that the growth in crime rates was discussed more frequently than any other issue and over half of the concerns regarding crime were raised by contributors from the Cayman Islands.

In the Cayman government’s own submission it too highlighted public safety as a significant challenge. The report said it was violent and organized gang crime which was raised most often.

The report will be one of a number of elements that will contribute towards shaping a new white paper that the UK is preparing in regards to its future relationships with its territories. Consequently, people were asked to comment on how the UK could support and cooperate with the territories in addressing the various challenges that residents perceive are impacting their lives.

Law enforcement was considered the most important area of cooperation and most of these submissions came from residents of the Cayman Islands, one of whom said the “skills related to the gathering and effective protection of solid evidence is lacking.”

Another submission received from the Cayman Islands suggested that the UK Government was not meeting its obligations to tackle drug smuggling or training police and called for a greater focus on training local police as opposed to relocating them from other countries.

Aside from crime, Cayman, like other territories, raised economic challenges but the report notes that the submissions from Cayman and elsewhere were as much about structural economic issues as they were about the economic crisis. The need for diversification of the economy and unemployment were specific concerns raised in the report. One of the most frequent concerns was the fear that ex-patriot workers were undercutting the pay of local workers.

“A total of eight submissions, largely from residents of the Cayman Islands, mentioned this concern and two respondents from the Cayman Islands proposed the introduction of a minimum wage to combat the problem.”

The report also published the official response from the Cayman government on this issue: “Striking the appropriate balance between attracting qualified and expert labour from overseas and, in the process of so doing, not obstructing the progress and development of the local workforce remains an elusive task and one that would seem to be central to any successful economic planning in the Cayman Islands.”

In summarizing the findings of the consultation exercise, the report found that the greatest challenges to economic development include economic diversification, infrastructure needs and the global financial crisis but when it came to everyday life, the territories are most challenged by crime, cost of living and unemployment. When it came to cooperation with the UK, law enforcement was the most significant.

Corruption and election franchising were also cited as difficult for territories when dealing with politics and government. The issues of transparency, poor planning and corruption were the most prominent issues raised in relation to good governance and highlighted as priorities for improvement. The UK could help more, the report found, with the provision of audits and advice.

See full report below.

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Educators invited to apply for annual DMS grant

| 20/03/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Organisers of educational initiatives are being invited to apply for these years Joanna Clarke Excellence in Education Award (JCA), and the Joanna Clarke Scholarship Fund. Any individuals or not for profit groups that have a worthwhile positive education programme that needs support can submit an application from now until 1 April 1st.  Sponsored by DMS recipients can receive up to $12,000 KYD for a programme or $5,000 KYD for a scholarship. Now in its sixth year, Don Seymour, president of DMS said giving back to the local community through was fundamental to its business practice.

Applications are being circulated throughout local schools and not for profit organizations and are available at the award website www.joannaclarkeaward.ky. Parties eligible for consideration include but are not limited to teachers, students, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), not for profit organizations, government departments and schools.
The JCA Committee will carefully review all applications submitted, and if several worthy projects are identified, they may provide grants to multiple organizations up to $12,000 KYD in total.

“It is of paramount importance to us to visit the recipients and follow up with the progress of the initiatives – my favourite part of this whole process is interacting with the children and learning how they are benefitting,” said Joanna Clarke. “After all, it is about the children. We are always greeted with such a warm reception, and to date it has been indescribably rewarding to see how well maintained the initiatives we have selected are.”

The JCA committee introduced the Scholarship Fund two years ago and is once again seeking applications from an aspiring or existing educator looking to further his/her education or wishing to further expand on his/her professional development. Up to $5,000 KYD will be awarded to the successful recipient.

For further information and to obtain an application contact Tara Tvedt-Pearson, dms Organization Ltd. at 749-2407 or ttvedt@dms.com.ky

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Drugs rule in local jail

| 20/03/2012 | 60 Comments

Prison gate (232x300).jpg(CNS): The use of ganja by inmates at HMP Northward is so pervasive it rules the day to day goings on throughout the jail, according to a recently released inmate. Speaking to CNS, the former prisoner, who was serving a sentence for a non-violent, non-drug related offence, said that ganja was used openly while he was there, with officers turning a blind eye to its consumption. The ex-inmate told CNS that the older prisoners controlling the trade inside the jail use juvenile inmates to collect and run the drugs. He also revealed that prisoners are making a potent homebrew out of their breakfast juice and stolen yeast. Prison officials, however, refute the idea that drugs are tolerated in the prison.

Eric Bush, Chief Officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which has responsibility for the local prison system, said contraband, including drugs, alcohol, weapons and cell phones, are not uncommon in prisons around the world. 

"Whilst we would all like to have absolutely sterile prisons, this is not the reality that we live in,' he said. "That said, there is no tolerance for contraband found within Cayman's prisons."

The former prisoner, who has asked CNS to protect his identity, said he wanted to relate his experiences because he believes it is important that the Cayman public understands the extent of the problems inside HMP Northward with drug and alcohol misuse. Mostof the drugs get inside over the prison fence, which the prison admits is now an almost daily offence, and the former inmate explained what happens.

“Cell phones play a big part in co-ordinating this feat for it is important for the 'collector' to reach the drugs before security catches them on the cameras,” he told CNS. Once the ganja is thrown over, he explained, those controlling the drugs business dispatch their ‘’foot soldiers" to collect the drugs and run with it into the block, where it is immediately handed over to another inmate to avoid a search. “In most cases these individuals are juveniles because they cannot be penalized and they are also impressionable,” the ex-inmate said, adding that the youngsters were paid for their efforts in ganja.

"Once inside the block the 'bosses' break apart the ganja and divide it into pill bottles obtained from the prison clinic. These bottles are then sent to other blocks for $100 a bottle. The lower level dealer then breaks it up again into $5 portions for sale. Inmates pay the $5 in the form of phone cards or packs of cigarettes.”

Eric Bush said individuals are serving prison sentences after being caught and found guilty of throwing drugs over the prison fence. “Officers in the prison are on constant watch,” he said. “They work relentlessly to prevent such contraband from entering and do all they can to detect what has been thrown over the chain-link fence or brought in illegally.”

Since June last year, he said, there have been 32 incidents of drugs recovered from prisoners and some 41 incidents of drugs found within the secure areas, which illustrates the pervasive nature of the problem.

The former inmate, who was serving his first ever sentence, agreed that the drugs were prevalent and used by a significant number of inmates but he described that use as flagrant. “The biggest shock for me at Northward was the blatant use of ganja in everyday life … Just walking into Bravo Wing, there is a pungent odour of weed.”

He revealed that most inmates smoke the drug in their cells but others sit in the main dining hall near the window and smoke while watching TV. “However, the real heavy smoking occurs at 9:30pm lock down, when the inmates know that the on duty guards cannot enter the cells past 9:30pm unless ordered by the director,” he said. “Between 9 to 9:30pm there is a mad dash by most of the inmates to purchase weed and rolling papers.”

The inmate claimed that a guard would bring him 2 to 3 packs of papers each week so he could swap them individually for snacks and cigarettes. “Each pack holds 32 individual sheets, which means 94 joints were consumed in a week just from the papers I sold,” he said.

Evening exercise is another popular time for prisoners to smoke as there is an unwritten rule between the inmates and the guards that this is their time to smoke weed, he claimed. “The officers sit and supervise the exercise field far away from the 50 or 60 inmates,” he said, adding that it was common to see guards ignoring those using the drug.

According to the ex-prisoner, the extent of the drug problem in jail drives prisoners to steal in order to pay for their weed and the most common form of stealing is food from kitchen. Inside Northward food is almost as valuable as the drugs, he said, and inmates working in the kitchen can steal and sell food to dealers to support their habit. “The dealers eat like kings at Northward and this encourages the drug trade,” he said.

Illustrating the prevalence of drug use, he explained that F-Wing, which is the enhanced wing with special privileges, was half full.

“It is the only place within Northward that if you fail a drug test you will get sent back to general population,” the ex-inmate stated. “Ironically, it is the only block that is currently halffull. It can house over 42 inmates but when I left it had only 21 inmates. This is in a prison that is dangerously over populated. Inmates tell me that they enjoy their ganja way too much to move over to F-Wing. That is to say, weed rules the minds and attitudes of most of inmates.”

However, officials denied that officers are complacent and lax, noting that there are consequences and inmates can get 28 days loss of remission when drugs are found on them. Bush said searches are carried out on a daily basis, both in cell blocks and around the prison estate. 

Over the last month alone, he said, 121 searches were conducted, which resulted in the recovery of cell phones, cell phone chargers, ganja and shanks (home-made weapons). Furthermore, since the start of the year 36 prisoners have been charged after testing positive for ganja or for having ganja in their possession. Officers carry out targeted and random drug testing continuously on prisoners, and from June 2011 to present a total of 240 male prisoners were tested. Of those, 61 tested positive for ganja and no one tested positive for cocaine, Bush added.

While ganja appears to be the drug of choice in Northward, inmates are also adept at brewing homemade alcohol, the formerprisoner said.

“The inmates make a potent brew called 'lingo'. I have seen inmates totally hammered on this stuff on a weekly basis. Each morning at breakfast the usual suspects fill large jugs with any kind of citrus juice — orange or pineapple. They then either steal or purchase from kitchen workers the sugar or yeast for fermentation. Yeast is harder because the prison locks it up in a freezer.”

Once the prisoners have these basic ingredients, they store the juice mixed with the sugar and yeast under the prison bunks for about 5 to 8 days, he said.

“The pressure builds up so the inmate has to constantly loosen the cap so it doesn't explode,” the inmate said. “This has happened before and it sounds like a gun went off. Most prisoners who brew the sour tasting, wine-like-alcohol then sell it by the glass for weed or a $5 phone-card. When caught with "lingo" officers simply warn the inmates and dump out the homemade hooch.

“I have seen officers laugh at inmates who are  drunk and foolish, simply telling them to sleep it off,” he added, despite the fact that many prisoners are in Northward because of substance abuse problems.

Real bottles of rum are smuggled inside the jail to the blocks of the inmates who work the store room, he said. “When the items from the store room, such as inmates' canteen, soap, food for the kitchen or new prison uniforms, are delivered there always seems to be contraband included,” the ex-inmate added as he expressed his concern about the prevalent use of drugs and lingo by the very young prisoners, who, he said, were not only fearless but very angry.

According to Chief Officer Bush, since June last year there have been eight occasions where homemade alcohol (which, he said, is also made from fruits and bread soaked into water) was confiscated and the prisoners received four days loss of remission.

He also pointed out that staff at Northward work in an enclosed and often isolated environment with men deprived of their liberty. “Some of the prisoners are dangerous, aggressive, mentally disturbed and suffer from addiction,” the chief officer said, as he pointed to the assault on Friday in which an inmate bit off a piece of a prison officer’s ear.

“I would like to commend the men and women in the Prison Service for their honourable and dedicated service to the people of the Cayman Islands and encourage them to keep their heads high and continue to serve their country well,” Bush added.

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