No treatment for inmates

| 02/04/2012

Prison gate (232x300)_0.jpg(CNS): Although drug and alcohol misuse is prevalent among Northward inmates and many of the prisoners are suffering from serious addiction and dependency issues, none of them are receiving proper treatment during their time of incarceration. A former inmate who has related his experiences and observations of prison life to CNS said that despite there being some 212 prisoners currently in the jail, no more than a dozen inmates ever attend the twice weekly NA/AA meetings — the only support offered for dependency issues. The one-time prisoner explained that rehabilitation at Northward is limited to basic education and sentence planning, which inmates regard as nothing more than a joke.

A recent report commissioned by the Portfolio of Internal Affairs by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) also identified myriad issues relating to the rehabilitation of inmates and made many recommendations.  It described the rehabilitation programmes at Northward as having been "decimated”, leaving a crucial part of the prison system completely neglected.

“It is unconscionable that the only programme to deal with this issue are the twice a week Narcotics and alcohol anonymous meeting that lasts just one hour,” the inmate revealed, adding that they were held by external volunteers. “The prison has no programme to tackle the leading cause of repeat incarceration.”

The deputy governor has stated that the rehabilitation of prisoners had been sacrificed for security because of a lack of funding. However, things are set for change with the introduction of a director of rehabilitation services, the engagement of several teachers, as well as a new prison chaplain.

Many experts say that rehabilitation, which covers everything from helping prisoners get over drug dependency problems, anger management issues, mental health diagnosis and education, is the only way to address recidivism, which is particularly high in Cayman.

The ex-inmate who spoke to CNS was new to the prison system but he immersed himself in prison life when he was faced with a short sentence for a non-violent offence. Doing what he could to assist prisoners, he said most of them did not take sentence planning seriously.

“Each inmate that comes into the prison is assessed to develop a plan or strategy to avoid re-offending,” the ex-inmate told CNS. “Inmates view this as a joke and only participate to ensure they get parole, early release or transferred to F-Wing. They see no real value in this programme and do not think the prison ‘higher ups’ are committed to helping them.”

The former prisoner said that many of the Caymanian inmates are dejected that the vocational studies facility, which was supposed to include auto repair, electrical and mechanical training, has been sitting empty for years. But one of the major barriers to the sentence planning or any kind of rehabilitation for prisoners is literacy standards.

“Illiteracy is a tremendous problem at Northward,” the ex-inmate said, echoing the comments of many people over the years. However, the only reading programme that exists is a volunteer led class coordinated by Cayman Islands Reading Aides. He explained that there are classes in English, maths, computer studies and art but the inmates have to pay for their exams, and given that they make very little money for the work they do, inmates are discouraged from completing the courses.

Another major problem that faces the prison management is the significant number of inmates suffering from mental health problems which are not addressed. In many cases the prisoners who are alcohol or drug dependent are often self-medicating for an underlying mental health issue.

The ex-inmate revealed that the prisoner allegedly involved in the recent assault on a prison guard, in which the officer had part of his ear bitten off, was at the time the ex-prisoner was incarcerated very obviously suffering from mental health problems.

“Over the past three months we could all see that he was losing it mentally," the ex-inmate revealed, adding that the other inmates refer to those who are breaking down as  "chipping off". The former prisoner said his symptoms were quite apparent as he had begun talking to himself and making strange noises. “It was blatant that he needed help,” the former inmate said.

He revealed that the level of anxiety and depression among inmates is alarming and many of the younger prisoners who have severe learning difficulties are exploited by hardened older criminals with whom they are incarcerated. The ex-inmate stated that some offenders are also emotionally, physically and sexually abusing these prisoners after the 9:30 lockdown.

The inmate told CNS that not only is there is little or no treatment but there is little protection either for the prisoners that have real problems which are not being addressed.

The consultants who conducted the recent IPAC report confirmed that offenders with mental illness were not treated for their problems during their period of incarceration. The authors also noted that these offenders often suffer from drug or alcohol addiction as well and that both the mental illness and the underlying addiction had to be treated.
The team rejected suggestions of a Mental Health Court, but recommended a specialized integrated court dealing holistically with the offender.

Highlighting the existing problem, the report found that currently “all the support services serving the Drug Treatment Court are not trained or equipped to deal with offenders with mental illness.”

The chief officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs recently announced a number of changes to the prison management structure, which are designed to address the problems relating to rehabilitation. 

Based on the recommendations of the IPAC report, Kathryn Dinspel-Powell has become the Deputy Chief Officer for Corrections and Rehabilitation, and will now guide the strategic development of rehabilitation services. She will work with key managers and staff in both the prison and the Department of Community Rehabilitation to implement the key recommendations.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous 9:41, they go in addicted regardless of whether they can get it in there or not.  I thought the idea of prison was to rehabilitate not punish.  If the resources are not there rehabilitation is impossible.


    @Anonymous 20:59.  No, they cannot be forced as you say but they should have the option for help if they want it.



    I do not use drugs or even drink alcohol but I do have first hand knowledge of drug addiction in my family.  It is very difficult to overcome addiction and most parents , teachers , pastors etc. do not have the proper training to deal with it.  The prison, as a place for rehablitation should offer  whatever is necessary to try to overcome addiction. The only way crime will decrease is if help is offered.  If you send a person to prison who has been addicted for years and they spend 5 years in prison they will still be an addict when they come out.  They need the help to learn how to overcome the urge for drugs. 



  2. TEEDOFF says:

    Get a new Captain ( Director) and first mate ( Deputy Director)  and the ship  HM Northward my sail on the right course.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Incarceration and treatment are two different modalities.  First one, then the other. A well planned re-entry program including structured living environment, supervision, counseling and treatment after release has been shown to be very effective in reducing the number of re-offenders. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about the treatment center at Caribbean Haven? What is the recovery rate there? Certainly they are getting someone sober.

  5. Anonymous says:

    at 6.58 but we all could graduate from High school. Only now after 25 years the problem ahs been addressed.

    Only in Cayman , wait for the problem to happen and not the vision and prevention for!  

  6. SMB says:

    If it is indeed correct that the majority of the inmates have alcohol and substance abuse issues. It is suprising that only about 12 individuals regularly attend the AA / NA meetings.

    You would think that sitting in a cage, an inmate would come to the realisation that their way doesn't seem to be working very well and that it might be time to try a new approach. But addiction is a very cunning foe and sometimes it is easier to just choose a life of jails, misery and poverty rather than recovery and a sane and happy life.

    For an addict, drugs / alcohol / food / sex etc. keeps calling them back – quick and easy peace of mind and if you have been going down that path for years it seems like there is really no alternative. But real joy and inner peace is not to be found in drugs / alcohol / food / sex etc. That inner calmness and love for self can only be found when the addict stops using, and begins to take an honest look at themselves, followed by a vigorous attempt to clear away the wreckage of the past. 

    Addicts who seek recovery must look squarely at what their basic emotional deformaties are. The things that make them want to escape and run from reality.  They need to grow spiritually and emotionally.

    It is not an easy choice to choose recovery – sometimes it is just easier to keep running from oneself, even if that means getting locked up in a cage. Statistics show that just about nobody seems to successfully recover on their own. Usually the best chance for an addicts is to join with other addicts who have found a way to stop using and who are leading a better way of life. Together they share their experience , strength and hope in  meetings and by working the 12 Steps of recovery. It works for millions of people around the world and their lives are transformed for the better. It really works.


  7. Anonymous says:

    "Drug users can only be helped if and when they choose to seek help or accept it"….?…. I think that anyone, not just drug users accept help when they want to change. This is true to an extent, but i think the point is that there is NO real help in the prison system. How are they to change when they are constantly being looked down upon in society? How are they to change when the organizers of these so called programs do not care to help, they do not follow up with any of the prisoners except for the once a week for an hour meetings. This is not sufficient. Once released back in to society they are expected to follow the lessons taught in these programs, how are they to do so when society will not give them a chance? They are unable to get jobs and therefore forced back in to the lifestyle of crime, drugs and other acts. Problems start at home, but people need to realize society contributes greatly to these issues. It only takes 1 bad apple to spoil the bunch and sadly for many people this is the case, if a member of a family slips up society is quick to judge the entire unit, causing a blind eye to be turned to them. I know this is not the case for everyone all the time but unfortunately most of the time it is. Society cannot be controlled as this is a free country andeveryone is entitled to an opinion. But many of these offenders are the youths of the Cayman Islands, and deserve a chance. It is never too late to change and commit to a better lifestyle. They are wrong for the crimes they committ and they need to serve the time accordingly depending on the offence however people make bad choices every day, some get away and some are sent to prison. They are still human beings, not dogs. They deserve education and GOOD programs with GOOD instructors and counselors that will help them.

    • SMB says:

      The people who attend the meetings from outside are volunteers. They are fellow addicts in recovery. They are not paid and they do genuinely want to help. They are not looking for payment or praise. It is an anonymous fellowship.

      Once the inmates get out of Northward they continue to attend meetings in the community. There is at least one meeting every day in Cayman, 365 days a year. That includes Easter and Christmas day. On most days there are two meetings, on some days there are three.

      Recovering addicts stay in touch with one another because one addict helping another addict is how they stay clean. Service is a part of recovery. Generally a recovering addict will take a phone call at any time of the day or night because they know how hard it is to make the change. They have been there themselves, they know the slavery and dispair that comes with addiction. The destruction that is wrought on the family.

      Going into the prison as a volunteer – a recovering addict (who was once in the gutter or in jail themslves) and sharing your experience, strength and hope with someone who then drags themselves out of that pit, reunites with their children and  family members and who manages (one day at a time) to live a good and upright life – is an amazing thing. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for that. I am not nor have ever been an addict but as the mother of a recovering addict I have seen and continue to see the struggle my child goes through.  What many fail to realize that as they continue to point their finger and judge the addicts it is a continuous struggle for them.  Thank God for the men and women who have been there and done that for they are the support system that will hold up and help those who are fighting through their recovery.  A large majority of the men and women who are in prison committed crimes due to their drug use. If they were not addicted they would not commit crimes.  If  they truly want help then we as HUMAN BEINGS should do our best to provide it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    How much help did the victims of their crimes get?

  9. Anonymous says:

    What are the government departments that overlap the rehabilitation / treatment for the community & prisoners alike are doing besides being top management heavy and receiving large salaries? C I Counselling Centre, Caribbean Haven, Probation Office, National Drug Council are the main government entities yet there are other departments that intertwine as well.

    What does the Counselling Centre really do? Every couple of months you see an employment advert seeking counsellors which brings me to ask why do the counsellors keep leaving this department? Only the top heavy management postions stay filled. Maybe managemnt could earn their large salaries and get down into the trenches and start doing the work from the ground up and stop going to "meetings" all day.

    Its time for the departments responsible in this area to walk the walk and stop putting out media blurbs to make the community believe the problems are being addressed because clearly their not. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    They are in prison for goodness sake – they shouldn't be able to get their hands on anything to be addicted to or dependent on!!

    Is there no control in Northward?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Maybe inmates need to stop regarding the help they do receive as a "joke" and make the most of it. I don't really have much sympathy for those people who won't help themselves improve their lives. If being thrown in prison is not a wake up call to reconsider how you are living your life what else is? Stop blaming the system.  Its not up to government to solve your problems — its up to YOU.

  12. Anonymous says:

    That's because they get ll the drugs they want. Who needs treatment?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Prisons around the world have the same basic choice to make when dealing with their prison population:


    PLAN A: If the prisoners are to be released back into society, then you must invest heavily in mental health and training programs that will really help the prisoners to make honest and productive lives for themselves when they are released. This is very hard to do and very expensive.


    PLAN B: If you are not willing to implement PLAN A, then lock them up forever because if they are are released with no treatment and training, they are still broken individuals who will go back to making their living in the only occupation that they know, namely crime.


    Tough choice either way.



  14. Right ya so says:

    but Cayman doesn't have any of these problems don't you know?! This is what we get for years and years of pretending and sweeping it under the rug hoping it would go away..Our God fearing church going community has spent many a year concentrating their efforts on lambasting the gays amoungst us whilst ignoring the true ills in Cayman.

    We are rife with mental illness of many varities, drug and alcohol addiction but nobody wants to deal with it. We don't have enough doctors and/or therapists capable and trained or caring enough to recognise and deal with mental illness. The common refrain by doctors in Cayman has been to "just pull your socks up and get on with it" "don't be silly, there's nothing wrong with you". Whilst they sit back and watch the fall out from this inaction and incompetency many years later because, as the saying goes, "the truth will out".  Having spent 20 years or more in confusion and pain dealing with mental illness before I was finally diagnosed 10 years ago I've heard it all from our wonderful doctors – luckily enough my self medicating didn't land me in jail.

    But the point is that we NEED to have competent mental health professionals in Cayman. Teachers in schools should be taught to recognise the signs and symptoms, GP's and nurses should be trained in this area. We, as a community, need to be taught that mental illness is just another disease – not something to be ashamed of, but a disease like any other disease that needs to be treated. The same for drug and alcohol addiction. If we can start with that that we're well on our way.

    And, some of our prisoners are obviously in dire straits and need professional help before we lose even more than we already have done.

    Time to deal with it Cayman!

  15. Anonymous says:

    The highest priority for Cayman's prison system is to teach inmates how to read, write, and speak.

    How can anyone survive these days without such a fundamental skill?


  16. Anonymous says:

    Kathryn: Isn't the Counselling Centre (whatever it's called nowadays) given money by Government to provide an output to the Prison delivering counselling services? It used to be.

    • The struggle continues says:

      Of course they have been recieving a line budget for "providing" services for years now.

      The same Dept of Counselling Services could very well utilize the Treatment Centre in Breakers(including the Half-way house) that has a full staff compliment but only one or two clients that are there at any given time.

      Its atricious what has become of Drug and alcohol treatment services in the Cayman Islands but when you have chief officers who are clueless regarding the treatment regime and a head of Dept that has gotten rid of the Caymanian Counsellors who give a damn and surrounded herself with foreigners(less threatning), you will end up not meeting your mandate of helping those Caymanians who really need help. Funding should not be used as the rationale for giving people the help they truly need.



  17. Anonymous says:

    Sooo pretty much what anyone who has seen how things are done (or not) in Cayman would think the Cayman prison would be run.  Got it.  I wonder what his recomendations to fix the (his)problem would be?

  18. Anonymous says:

    These problems with Cayman's prisoner population is only a reflection of wider problems in the general Caymanian population…with the very same lack of care or attention over the years to the underlying causes of crime and mental problems.

    Proof of this; Cayman does not have a mental health institution, no seperate young offending facility, no vocational or trade school etc etc and this despite the glaring needs and problems associated with any local population for many, many years now.

    Is it any wonder then, that the rate of recidivism is so high, or the rate of untreated mental problems ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Drug users can only be helped if and when they choose to seek help or accept that they have a problem.  Who can force them to make a change or a complete turn around?  The source also needs to be addressed.

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem starts at home and should be solved at home as it used to be in the past.

      If this proved to be difficult for the family then asking for the help of our elders and community ,and if involved in a church group, would be more than sufficient to aid those in need.

      In extreme cases, with community intervention and guidance, the result proved to be more in the positive direction than the negative.

      Blaming others for our problems is not the solution to our problems.

      We must take care of own because nobody else will!


      • Anonymous says:

        I see people who have very obvious mental problems but when they offend they are put in prison and not a mental hospital.  They shouldn't be put along with the criminals.  You can't blame the parents for this.  Sometimes, the parents have mental problems as well or don't recognize the problem with the child.  The common way to solve it is: "give them a good beating". 

        • Anonymous says:

          Unfortunately, this is true.

          But what are our options?

          Intervene at the family level personally or report them to the authorities?

          We are and all should be Concerned Caymanians!

      • Concerned Caymanain says:

        We all know how the problems used to be "solved at home" – lock the mentally ill up in a shed out back.  Surely our society has evolved further than that.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not in my community, my friend.

          We were/are Concerned Cayamnians; help and compassion was offered and given to enrich, benefit and to give people the best quality of life possible (and this not involving any church group or families putting 'others' in sheds).

          I guess some parts of society were evolved back then and other parts are just starting to catch up now!

          What part of the world are you from Concerned Caymanain?