Local cop cells condemned

| 06/02/2013

gt cell (218x300).jpg(CNS): The prison cells at both George Town and West Bay police stations have been condemned by the UK’s prison inspectors, who described them as dirty, windowless and hot with numerous safety issues and, like HMP Northward, barely fit for human habitation. With Cayman’s new human rights regime, the state of the police cells could land government in court and lead to costly awards if the cells are not, as suggested by the UK’s HMP inspection team, condemned and replaced as soon as possible. As well as the appalling environmental conditions, the inspectors found that prisoners were badly treated, with the system of managing prisons arbitrary and informal.

During the inspection of both the police and court custody areas undertaken by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the team found that the proper treatment and care of detainees, including women and young people, was “informal, subject to too much unregulated discretion and lacking in effective oversight and accountability.”

Nick Hardwick, the UK’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, said urgent improvements needed to be made to custody facilities operated by both RCIPS and court services, but in a similar concern to that raised over the conditions at Northward, he said it was difficult to see how improvements could be achieved without significant investment and a radical review.

The report, which was released this week and teams with another damning report of the prison system, catalogues a list of disgraceful conditions and treatment of people held by police while under arrest.

“George Town and West Bay custody suites were not fit for purpose,” the report said. “They were dirty, windowless, hot and humid, with no air conditioning, except in staff areas. Cells contained obscene and gang-related graffiti and multiple ligature points …Detainees held there had no privacy.”

While the prison conditions should be of real and significant concern for the local authorities, the detention of people in police custody in such appalling conditions when they are merely suspected and not even charged with a crime raises even more serious problems for government and the potential for human rights abuse claims.

Although both George Town and West Bay cell areas were condemned before the inspection, they were still in use when the inspectors came to Cayman last summer and are still in use today. The custody suites were described as “appalling and not fit for purpose” and the inspectors said there were no definite plans to replace them.

The report described detainees putting towels up at the air vents and putting mattresses on the cell floors in an effort to deflect any fresh air that came through the vents onto them in order to bare the overheated and stuffy inhuman conditions. But that was not all.

“We found examples of gang-related, obscene and biblical graffiti on the walls and doors,” the report said. “In our survey, 100% of men said that the temperature was bad and 60% that the lighting was bad too. Each suite had showers and toilets, which were dirty and not suitably screened to provide any privacy. In our survey, only two men said that they could use the toilet when they wanted to, and 60% that they were not given the opportunity to have a shower. However, as none of the cells had a call bell and staff were not able to see the cells from their offices, it was not clear how any detainee attracted the attention of staff to request anything.”

The inspection team also found a lack of consistency in the care provided, and one ‘protected witness’ had been in isolation for over a month at the time of the inspection and had no access to fresh air and natural light, with no way of telling the time of day.

“At the time of the inspection there was a protected witness being held in them, who had been in isolation for over a month,” the report reads. “The door to his cell was left open so that he could also use the corridor, but his cell and the corridor were dark, with no natural light. He had no way of telling what time of day it was, had not been outside for several weeks and was clearly depressed.”

The care of detainees was described as inconsistent, with clear examples of poor and unregulated discretion being used that had a negative impact on detainees. The inspectors also found little evidence of officers having been trained in the care of detainees.

“We met one auxiliary constable in George Town who told us that he had received no formal training, and he had resorted to watching clips on ‘YouTube’ about custody in the USA to learn how to care for detainees.”

The abuse of those held on remand at the police station was also documented in the report. “Three detainees in our survey alleged that they had been abused by police while in their custody and one that he had been sprayed with mace. No applications of force used in custody were recorded or reviewed, and there were no systems to manage, monitor or ensure accountability,” the report said.

With no secure exercise yards, the inspectors described how men were sometimes taken into the car park in handcuffs and shackles for some fresh air or to smoke. 

Pointing to the arbitrary and discretionary nature of how prisoners were treated, the report noted that there was little documentary evidence of how decisions were made to allow visits, with the discretion used by some officers not replicated by others.

Meanwhile, the report also found that the cells and custody conditions at the court house were also cramped and lacking in privacy at a time when prisoners most needed to speak to legal counsel.

“Facilities for consulting legal representatives were poor," the report reveals. “We saw detainees talking to legal counsel in preparation for their court appearance through the bars of their detention rooms in the presence of staff and other detainees. Legal counsel we spoke to told us that dedicated private interview rooms were not available and that they had to make use of the counsels' robing room, which was liable to interruption from other counsel using the facility.”

The report also documented some internal wrangling at the court over who was responsible for prisoners once they were convicted. While court services, prisons and police all have specific roles in the care and control of detainees, there was nowritten protocol to define the role and responsibilities of the respective organisations in terms of the care of detainees.

“We were told of some disagreements between the parties, in relation to the escorting of newly convicted detainees to prison,” the report noted. “The Prison Service was of the opinion that it was the responsibility of the police to transport all newly convicted detainees, irrespective of whether they had arrived at court under arrest. The police took the view that the Prison Service should take responsibility for detainees once they had been convicted.”

The report said that in reality, there simply was nowhere to hand over the care of convicted detainees safely within the court custody area, but the issue had caused animosity between the parties. It also noted that the facilities for conducting court hearings remotely by video conferencing had never been used.

Government officials announced the installation of video link facilities from the jail to the courts over one year ago and claimed to have plans to begin using them within weeks. It is not clear why the video link has never been utilized.

Category: Crime

Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, because every criminal needs to be treated like a king or queen. Maybe they want to clean them up for politicians who think they really are royalty? Something needs to be done about done the Crown pushing all this human rights crap on us. It’s going way too far.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I dont understand what the purpose of a prison. My understanding that it was a place to punish persons who commit crimes and serve as a deterent so that there are no repeat offenders. I am sorry but the report is BS. They need to go and inspect some south american prisons or even closer Jamica, then come talk crap in our ears. After so much of government (our money) being spent to house these rejects from society they want us to provide better. Come to talk to me when I dont have to work a honest man's job to make my own living, and have someone providing food, shelter, clothing and extras for free.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am more concerned with the safety of the individuals who have to work at the prison than the hardships of the prisoners themselves. Why should the government pay to have the cells of prisoners air conditioned? They are in Northward to atone for sins they have committed, not have an extended vacation in rooms with wonderful views and sweet, cool air conditioning. If they were so bothered about having a windowless room and hot, humid temperatures then perhaps they should have thought about what prison would be like before they committed the crimes that landed them there in the first place. Prison should be punishment, it should not be enjoyable. Sure, remove the gang related graffiti and any offensive material – but as far as I'm concerned these people should have no air conditioning, no windows and no television. They are entitled to a bed, meals to sustain life and as many books as they want. In fact, I know of a prison somewhere in Asia (if I am not mistaken) that allows prisoners of non-violent crimes to shave off 4 days off their sentence for every book they read and write a report on (for a maximum of 4 times per year, or a total of 16 days for each year they should be incarcerated). The fact that they can find the resources to drink liquor, smoke cigarettes or drugs and enjoy themselves during their down time is appaling to me. Why should they have some of the same liberties that us as innocent, free people have?

  4. Baldric says:

    Before they spend too much money elsewhere … has a red carpet been ordered for Nothward yet?

  5. Anonymous says:

    This crap is so amazing to read.

    Typing from first hand information I can tell you that most of the prisioners are perfectly content in Northward and as for GT lock-up, some would rather stay in town rather than move to the prison.

    Northward inmates have everything they need. Drugs, alcohol, cellphones etc… and what they don't have they make.

    I have a photo of prisioners playing cards, smoking splifs and drinking liquor they made with fruit.

    The onlything these guys miss is the freedom to roam the streets looking to reek more havoc.

    Oh, and air conditioning – really? How many of these people do you think use ac in their homes when not locked up?

    Next to zero.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  6. Anonymous says:

    "barely fit for human habitation"— so it is fine then, as most of the people in there are subhuman (aka criminals). If it's wrongful arrest or a minor violation, then fair enough & it's not a nice place, but let's not give criminals a cushy time. In England they get Xboxes & all sorts of things; it's like a hotel. Anyway, with Mac on the campaign trail maybe instead of fridges & paving, he can offer his Bayers better cells when they use them. Maybe he'll benefit too but we can only hope.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Aren’t there more important issues to deal with? Who cares if the prison is nasty! Find out who did the break ins on the Brac before we clean the jail cells and prisons up like they were hotels.

    Bracker

  8. Anonymous says:

    Third world in….third world out.  Management has to come from first world countries and have first world support for any system to work effectively and efficiently.  Prison, Police force, schools etc.  In Cayman it is common practice to put uneducated, untrained, inexperienced , unqualified people in positions they are not equipped to hold and then expect stellar results and no matter how many times this has failed the powers that be permit it to continue and continue to expect better results.        

  9. Anonymous says:

    Lets just corporatize the prison and judicial system like the US and make some money out of sending everyone it can to prison. Again the neglegence by our Government getting over paid  on our money while our people are unemployed or end up going to jail.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Please let us ask the UK for their support when it comes to spending for what is deemed nessesary for the protection of our community. I feel that our country needs it's respect back for the quality and pride we have instilled in it over the years. Let us not be lost in the internal problems but see the brighter future.

    • Anonymous says:

      07.35- alternately elect some people to govern who are not corrupt and then there will be money aplenty from the internal budget to fix this. No need to go to mother.

      Seems once again that Cayman does not like having its face rubbed in the brown smelly stuff, but rather than do anything about it, slag of the mother land for issuing such report and then ask them to pay to clean up?? Some people need to get off the Island a little more often and take reality breaks.

    • Anonymous says:

      According to the UK, Prison should feel like your home away from home. They should visit the cells of prisons in Jamaica, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua etc… compare and offer us their feedback since it's so disgusting and inhumane here.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In other words, third world.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can bet the majority of those in support of revamping our Prisons are:

       

      1. An ex-convict who’s been there, done that, got the overalls and can relate
      2. A girlfriend who has a man/baby daddy at cell block A
      3. A friend of a friend who solely took the blame for a crime
      4. A family member of some convict who resides there currently and in the distant future
      5. Persons who are feeling a tad guilty they are out while the wrong person is in
      6. Persons who foresee a friend/family member residing there in the near future and would like to see improvements made before hand.
      7. See all of the above

      Signed,

       

      No lover of a jail bird!

  12. Anonymous says:

    As an ex RCIP officer I have allot of sympathy for the poor Auxiliary Officers who have to work in the cells, the design of the cells is inherently dangerous for any officers who have to work there. The system is bizarre and can only have been created by someone who has never worked in a custody suite before ; you have an office for the officers which is separated from the communal area which prisoners use by a door which can be locked. When you walk through this door there is small square floored area from where all the individual cells can be accessed, which are locked, as well as the bathroom and showers. So you have a crazy situation where if a prisoner has to be let out of their cell to use the toilet for example, an officer has to enter the communal area from the office, lock himself in the communal area with the master key to all the cells, and then open the cell door for the prisoner so he can use the toilet (for example). The other officer who is working in the cells (if you have one, often there would be only one person due to staff shortages), was then supposed to ‘keep an eye’ on the officer to make sure he could call for help if it all went wrong. More often than not there were two prisoners to a cell, sometimes three, so it would be very easy for the prisoners to overpower the single officer, get the master cell key off him, release all the other prisoners and then you have a hostage situation. I am amazed it has never happened before. As one of the poor officers who had the misfortune to work in the cells block, I can honestly say it is a very intimidating experience, where the prisoners have control of the block because of the situation I described before, when you have to basically lock yourself in the cells area with the prisoners you have to keep n their good side if you want to finish your shift In one piece. Add to this appalling prisoner conditions, the fact that juveniles were kept in the same area as adults, along with Cuban immigration detainees, and the fact that some of the prisoners were kept in the cells for a long time, sometimes over a month, you have a recipe for disaster. It’s really a case of if you treat people like animals they will behave like animals.

    Of course the RCIP management were well aware of this, and have been aware of these issues for years, but nothing ever changed, or was done to fix the problems. Presumably if the senior management had to work a few shifts in the cells block conditions would change over night, but of course that will never happen.

    The officers who have to work in the cells block deserve allot of credit for having to do a very dirty job, in appalling and dangerous conditions. I hope the report embarrasses the senior management sufficiently so they actually do something’s to fix these problems they have been ignoring for the past decade.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Windowless, hot and humid with no air condition…WTF!!! It's a damn jail, Isnt suppose to be like that? If i didnt know any better, i would think they were giving a hotel review.

    • Anonymous says:

      Remember 00:40 there are human beings being placed in these cells not animals, human being that are innocent until proven guilty and bear in mind that Cayman now has human rights.

    • Anonymous says:

      Apparently, it is on TripAdvisor.

  14. Slowpoke says:

    These prison articles are sure bringing out the "punishment is good and should be worse" crowd.  Unfortunately, other than personal beliefs, there is little (in the much dreaded) "science" to support this.

     

    Google it or, look at how the punitive US compares to other Western countries.  (If that is too much of an effort, move straight to the thumbs down.)

    • Castor says:

      Good post, society has an obligation for the protection ALL it's citizens. All citizens deserve o modicum of respect and decency. People tend to gorget that. Most of these posters who as you deem the "punishment isgood……. crowd" have obviously never spent time a prison system.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This human rights stuff is starting to bug me. What you are telling me a convicted murderer can go to jail and get the royal treatment private bathrooms in all. To me once you commit a crime like murder, child molestation and rape you should loseall rights and you become property of the state and of the other inmates and they can do what ever the deemed fit as punishment.

    Betcha you will see a drop in crimes being committed.

    • Castor says:

      Interesting post. If you are under the illusion that severe punishment or the thought of severe punishment will deter crime, you are sadly mistaken. In China drug smugglers etc. are publically executed in sports stadiums where the spectacle is available for all to see. Yet there continues to be drug smugglers. Look at the drug cartels in Mexico, the beheadings, assasinations, torture, mass murder, cutting off fingers and limbs. All that doesn't deter people from persuing a life of crime. Your argument doesn't hold water.

    • Anonymous says:

      BUT the vast majority of prisoners are not murderers or child rapists…..

    • Anonymous says:

      So, our day labourers and helpers etc. live in houses that they share with other people, trying to save money, working honest harworking jobs, sharing rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, but we are worried about the conditions of those who instead of working choose to break the law? Are the living conditions in the prisons any worse than the living conditions of the average helper/landscaper?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Lots of us don’t have any air conditioning, and are living in unacceptable conditions. Not because we committed any crime, but because we cannot afford to pay the ever increasing bills, due to the waste and foolishness of our former poobah, and spineless, self-serving, cowardly present leadership.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Trust me, this place is really nasty. I know, I've been there….LOL. But let's be honest, it's a freaking lockup. You don't get there on a Friday night by baking cakes. I have to say that the experience has made me a lot more careful when the potential for foolishness arises. I just remember my long weekend in the lockup and bingo, foolishness cured, like magic.

    Even you Christians will agree with the principle…I chasten whom I love……No chastening at the present seems good, but grievous, but the desired result is your ongoing good behaviour….etc, etc. It works. Abuse is wrong in all cases, but rude guards, awful food, stench of stale urine, flea-ridden mattresses, rare bathroom breaks etc won't kill you.

    See, I told you I've been there. Shout out to my Babylon friends. Peace to all. God is good.

    • Anonymous says:

      The great Sir Stephen Tumin condemned all these places repeatedly 20 years and more ago -especially the lockups – but nothing was ever done because there was no money to do anything like that (after the politicians got their freebies) and the will was not there because "these people that get into these situations deserve to be treated like that. It's the West Indian way" Yet another argument for us to go independent because the UK, although in the last few days they have announced a much tougher prison regime in the UK, they want the rest of us to be all warm and fuzzy and human rightsy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Warm and fuzzy? Would need a lot to turn Northward and Fairbanks into warm and fuzzy places….! Have you looked at the photographs at the end of the report….? Would not need to be "warm and fuzzy" just fit for human habitation at least…… At the extreme Colchester Army prison is no picnic in the UK, but at least it is CLEAN and hygeinic…. and it turns out the best rehabilitated soldiers who vow NEVER to return to prison, and most never do…in fact most go on to become senoir NCOs….the regime is harsh and the surroundings stark, but it is fit to live in….. Prison should not just be about punishment, it should also be about rehabilitation, returning inmates to society where they can live out the rest of their lives productively. The sort of treatment at Northward would seen to release inmates in a worse state than when they went in? What good is that to the rest of us?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well put. Thanks for the insight. Now watch your step.

      • Anonymous says:

        Watching my step, but you know all about that. GPS under my car and eavesdropping on all phone calls, but's that's for another day.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said, but this uncoordinated mess should have been straightened out long ago. What DO these elected officials and management think they are paid for? Unbelievable incompetence! Even a clean, well run jail cell is no picnic and no one wants to be there. We don't need this disgusting embarassing black mark on our country's image and it's not a good way to fight crime. How about some professionalism?!

    • Anonymous says:

      18:04 …..u sound like you are running in the elections….