Prison aims to professionalise staff

| 15/01/2013

Prison entrance.JPG(CNS): With change on the horizon at the prison and hopes that the system can do more to turn offenders around, government’s next step in an attempt to professionalise the service is to encourage staff to go back to school. In order to make things easier for them, the prison has partnered with the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) to create courses that can be taken by employees of the Cayman Islands Prison Service at the training centre in HMP Northward. Natalie Cesar, the prison’s new deputy director and a staunch advocate for learning in the prison system, among inmates as well as staff, admitted that in the past the prison had got things wrong. But now, she said, it was on the road to putting things right and that meant the service must start with its own employees.

Starting this month managers and supervisors will begin a course in communication and leadership leading to an associate’s degree, giving them the tools to perform better when it comes to leading staff, officials said.

With rehabilitation set to take centre stage, HMP Northward will attempt to shift from a place that is seen as merely warehousing offenders until they can be lawfully released, often only to re-offend again, to a place that gives those in the criminal justice system a real chance to change. While the prison staff are an important component of this shift, it has been said in the past that the levels of illiteracy among the prisoners at HMP Northward is matched only by that of some of the staff. As a result, the prison is seeking to make a significant change and improve the standards of education in the prison across the board.

Despite the public perception of Northward as a place of luxury and recreation, the reality is very different. Inmates at Northward face untold challenges, not least because the vast majority of them have either very poor levels of education, unidentified learning difficulties, or mental health problems.

Although the prison has been relatively successful at keeping inmates away from the rest of society while they serve their prison terms, it has failed in its obligation to rehabilitate offenders and offer them a chance to change and live a crime free life once they are released.

Warehoused as they have been in the past, with only a few prisoners having any kind of academic or meaningful vocational training, many offenders are learning nothing more than how to be better criminals while they are incarcerated. As a result of the prison system's exclsuive focus on security, the rehabilitation of offenders has been neglected creating a significant problem for society.

Caesar told CNS that the goal now was community safety and that meant embarking on a new course with education for prisoners and staff at the heart of it.

“We want to take the prison service into the 21st century as a centre of correctional excellence,” she said. “In the past we didn’t do the right thing but now we are and we are being transparent about that. With all that government wants to change, this is how we are going to make that change.”

The prison has faced several reviews and reports recently by various external bodies that have identified significant problems at Northward, including overcrowdedness, a very high record of recidivism and a poor rehabilitation record.

The government's Portfolio of Internal Affairs has promised change and has already begun restructuring the service's management. Other major changes are expected to be announced shortly.

Category: Crime

Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    OMG……about time….I guess we are the only ones who new all along the prison was not professionally staffed or professionally run.  Just because you have one or two persons on staff who have had professional training or experience does not mean the whole operation is run professionally.  What a joke this is…..I can't wai til its prefessionally run an prisoners are actually treated like prisoners……If you want professioanal…Bring in Joe Arpaio for a week.  He will show you how to run things!

  2. Anonymous says:

    While we are discussing Prison, what about our Caymanian Lifers that has been there long  over twenty years? Marl road has it that at least one was to be released for the ending of 2012. We have several of our boys that are living out of the prison for several years now that are ready to be put back into society. I am very sorry for poor Steve Manderson along with most of the Island who thinks that he is a innocent man, and deserves to be united with his family.Then there is Blanford, Lindsel, Powell, and Bruce who would give anything to be back home in Jamaica. We are hoping that when our Governor gets a break from the new premier he will be able to look into it. These guys were young boys when they got into trouble but has had many years to grow into responsible men. Please we are asking you Mr Duncan to please pardon them and give them a chance. After all they are all coming from good familys.

    • Anonymous says:

      for you to take that position it's obvious that the people they murdered wasn't family members of friends of yours however one of the victims was a close friend of mine and i hope they never get out until they are as dead as he is!

  3. Anonymous says:

    If most of the prison officers are ex-pats, I wonder why we now have to spend further money training them – when they should be already fully trained?  I have no problem with training Caymanians but ex pat officers should already be experienced officers who may need refresher training but not actual training.  This is just ridiculous.  Many Caymanians out of work and we now have to pay for ex-pats to get training. 

    • Anonymous says:

      If most of the Prison Officers are expats then where are all the Caymanians. You just don't get it do you, there wouldn't be so many expats on this island if Caymanians were prepared to do the jobs they currently see as beneath them or too poorly paid?

      I suspect though that the main problem is familial and associate ties given that this is such a small community with high numbers of inter family relations. That is not surprising, however, how many Caymanians will want to enforce the custody laws of this country against a brother, cousin, uncle or friend. More importantly, should they be expected to and still maintain a professional standard? It would be a very big ask of anyone let alone someone who has been brought up by, grown up with or even parented by his custodial charge.

      It would appear to me that all prosecuting authorities in the Cayman Islands face the same challenge, certainly the RCIP do.   

      I cannot speak for other expat prison staff, but as a former UK HMP Prison Officer I was highly trained in all aspects of custody law, care in custody, control and restraint, security etc, etc…. the list is exhaustive but then again I completed a 12 week residential initial training course, including continuous assessment and testing, followed by final written and practical examinations. After which I had to complete a minimum of 1 years continuence training and probation, followed by continual refresher and new policy training on a weekly basis. This ensured that skill sets were maintained and new policy and legislation were understood and implemented appropriately.

      In addition, you were expected to aquire and maintain a high level of fitness and healthy body mass.

      If the Cayman Islands HMP are not following a similar line then it isn't any wonder that they now have issues with professionalism. You cannot and must not employ officers from any external service unless they come from a country that pays full attention to the needs of the service, the officer and the inmates. And it doesn't come cheap, quality staff that are educated and well paid are also highly motivated to give a professional service to their ultimate boss, the greater public for whom they should be providing a national security service without compromise.

      Prison Officers are rarely seen doing their very difficult and sometimes dangerous job and that's the way it should remain. However, to do that job they must be of reasonable intelligence and able to pass a sufficiently taxing written examination to identify any educational or personal deficiency. They should be able to sit in front of a panel of senior uniformed and civilian staff, credit themselves adequtely and finally pass an in depth screening process to clear them of possible links to criminality, debt or any other likely cause for concern within a national security service.

      You can teach anybody anything out of a book, but you can't teach loyalty or professionalism, it's inbuilt and you either have it or you don't.

      PS: The service could start by reflecting a more professional image by stopping officers from full wearing uniform off duty and walking around supermarkets doing their weekly grocery shopping.

      • Anonymous says:

        You don’t get it. If it was simply a matter of Caymanians not wanting the jobs then expats from all over the world would be hired. If however there was a conscious effort to recruit and prefer foreign nationals then only a particular nationality would be hired.

        If the system was faitr we would have officers from Honduras and America and Canada and the Bahamas and England and Spain and Jamaica. Instead it seems we have officers from Jamaica, and Jamaica, and Jamaica and Jamaica, and Belize (but he has friends in Jamaica).

        • Anonymous says:

          No, you don't get it. Unless you recruit and train Prison or Police Officers to an internationally recognised standard, then you will never get the quality and professionalismthat you require and need.

          With the highest regard for my expat colleagues from the Caribbean and Central South America, they are just not trained to a high enough standard for a modern custodial environment. Most have left their own systems due to disgusting and dangerous conditions where life is cheap and the death or injury of an officer is even cheaper.

          In the modern world we don't just lock up and leave anymore and if as I suspect Cayman wishes to continue to model its prison system on the UK's, then recruiting staff from under developed, 3rd world or desperately poor nations is obviously not the way to do it.

          Cayman may well have to look at its recruitment programme and bring in senior UK staff to assist in selection and training. But if as I suspect, the level of recruitment cannot be met by Caymanians alone, then short term contracts should be offered to UK officers to assist until a fully Caymanian service is possible.

          I have to say that a fully Caymanian workforce is unlikely for the reasons given above.

        • Anonymous says:

          Mommy, all the expats are taking my toys away, boo hoo !!!!

          Grow up, get an education, learn parenting skills, get motivated and aspire to acheive, that way you wouldn't need such a large prison on such a small island and all the big boys wouldn't show you up for what you really are.

          If you have ever been to Kingston you would see the main jail in all its glory. It is a humanitarian disgrace and an embarrassmentto civilised society, so it isn't any wonder that Jamaican officers choose to accept the CIG offer of recruitment into the CI HMP. They have the opportunity to work in a modern environment, for higher pay and know that they are likely to return to their home at night in one piece.

          Once again expats are filling the gap left by Caymanians, as they do all around the islands. That is a symptom of your own lack of credibility and moral fibre, not the fault of those who have come here to work for an ungracious, ignorant and uneducated populus who think the world revolves around them. Well, news flash, it doesn't so get out there and compete on a level playing field where jobs are awarded on merit and experience and not the family you come from or with whom you happen to get drunk with at the weekend. 

          I for one am sick of Caymanians who whinge and whine about how they are at a disadvantage in their own land. The reality is that the whole system is unfairly balanced in favour of Caymanians, you have far more opportunities than expats yet you whine, whine, whine. Start paying housing stamp duty, equal interest rates, open up the credit union to all residents etc, etc……If you're not able to compete on equal terms at least have the good grace to shut up and enjoy the extra privileges that you do have at our expense. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Seriously, why in gods name would you vote thumbs down on this comment, it makes sense and it's written by an obvious authority on the subject. Get real, or is it because the truth hurts?

      • Anonymous says:

        We are known for importing ignorance/low intelligence and dressing them up in uniforms, both in the RCIP and HMP.  It makes one wonder how the rest of the world is looking at our services/departments.  They look out for their own and the locals are sidelined as usual. 

        I would like to know when the prison was officially opened how many Caymanians were on staff?  They certainlywasn't all expat officers, but in later years when expats crept in they sure made it rough for the locals, until they were all routed out.  This is what happens in most work places, only to find out later, the vacancies are filled by their own nationals.

        • Anonymous says:

          Wrong, you are known for your own lack of intelligence and ignorance. You cannot just employ anybody as a Police or Prison Officer, they must have a reasonable level of intelligence and professionalism in the first place. If your system has employed expats its simply because they had no choice, whether that be a lack of appropriate Caymanian applicants or the experience and facilities to be able to train to a high enough standard.

          I'm certainly not suggesting that all expats are meeting the required standards, but that's because other small countries have the same issues recruiting and retaining quality staff from small populations. In a lot of these cases they are in fact escaping the appalling conditions of their own systems to work here on Cayman, where at least an attempt is made to provide a professional service. 

          From the comments listed I would suggest that there is wide spread ignorance on this subject, with opportunists trying to make the subject an expat issue. You are the only ones to blame for your lack of education, motivation and aspiration, if you think Caymanians are equipped to become professional custody officersin the true sense of 'professional' and match UK standards, then where are they and where have they been?

          A Prison Officer by definition must meet very high standards indeed, to just glibly mouth off that any Caymanian can do the job just illustrates that level of ignorance. Because unless you've actually worked in a prison, you would have no clue as to the challenges that must be met on a daily basis and the bravery demonstrated on behalf of your citizens so they can sleep well in their beds at night. It's one thing mouthing off, its another thing entirely when your country exects you to defend their safety and security, possibly with your own life.

          Do you think you're man enough or is it just another job that anyone can do, think about it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Better still, take it out of Cayman Islands responsibility and put it under direct control of the Governor and the FCO.

      CIG can't run a small island government the size of a small town council let alone be responsible for national security or correctional estabilshments.

    • Anonymous says:

      Be honest, most of the unemployed are unemployable and would you really want some half witted junky drunk looking after a family member of yours. Just look around your local bars and see how many wasters spend their day drinking beer at tax payers expense, are these the people you want running a national security organisation?

      Its true that some educated Caymanians are finding employment challenging, but Cayman isn't any different to every other westernised country in that respect. Why do you think so many people come here to find employment in the first place, could it be that they are filling a void, if so why is there a void?

      Employment isn't an entitlement, it is earned through education and damned hard work and when you get it the hard work continues. Learn that and employers opinions of Caymanian workers may change, encouraging them to employ more of THEIR OWN people and fewer expats.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was going to write the same as you, great minds think alike. These are the things that warrant marches. Those coming here from abroad I would expect that they have already been trained, thats what should have qualified them in the first instance. I would suggest that any expat who are not trained then get rid of them and train some Caymanian. Too many os us are out here and cant get a job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Idiot.  All jobs change with time and on going training is critical to MAINTAINING and IMPROVING quality. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why stop at the prison – why not professionalise the whole CIG?

  5. Anonymous says:

    "In the past we didn’t do the right thing but now we are and we are being transparent about that."

    Okay then – and the incident when the Prison Officer was injured a week ago? Or the new 'transparency' only applies to our plans and not to the goings on?