Prisoners learning to stay out of jail

| 29/06/2012

Table & Pews (210x300).jpg(CNS): Inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Northward are currently rearing cows, goats and tilapia and creating items as diverse as church pews, wine racks and custom engravings as part of the prison’s much needed efforts at rehabilitation. With recidivism in Cayman particularly high, the authorities are focusing on helping inmates learn skills while incarcerated to increase their chances of getting a job on release and hopefully stay away from jail. The opening of a long-anticipated vocational centre, which the inmates built, is bringing more opportunities for prisoners to enhance their employability. Michael Stephens, who coordinates the vocational pursuits, said that when the expanded facility is finished other inmates, including Category ‘B’ prisoners, will also be able to access vocational training. (Photo by Lennon Christian)

The new building is sectioned into six bays, officials from GIS said in a release. Three mechanical areas will soon offer opportunities to learn how to repair engines and perform auto-body work and professional auto painting. Other specialised classrooms will allow inmates to learn computer-repair, as well as air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance.

The use of technology and eco-friendly alternatives is also being encouraged as the new 5000 ft greenhouse is fitted with solar panels that supply the needed electricity.

“It is anticipated that by the end of this summer the vocational offerings will be in full-swing,” said Stephens. “However, participation is voluntary and dependent on the security clearance-level of the individual inmate.”

The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs and prison officials are partnering with a cross-section of localagencies to maximise these rehabilitation options. To aid the process, a new voluntary Inmate Employment Committee is being established.

Officials manage both the Northward and Fairbanks prison compounds. The administrative focus is also on using, and recruiting, prison officers who have practical and teachable skills.  A new deputy director of prisons with responsibility for rehabilitation is also being recruited but Deputy Director Daniel Greaves will remain in charge of prison operations. The new structure with two deputies will allow the director to have a more functional management team, which will assist the prison in meeting its mandate for rehabilitation, an area that officials have previously admitted has been weak.
“Our goal is to have all activities lead to recognised certification or educational diplomas. The subjects are as diverse as electrical and plumbing work, health and safety, small engine repairs,” said Prison Director Dwight Scott. “The aim is to provide prisoners with the requisite skills that match the skill sets required by the labour market, while reinforcing and encouraging good work ethics.”

The education and employment department is also helping with a “work-readiness” certification programme for discharged prisoners to assist the men to use their new knowledge or skills to start cottage industries or small businesses or engage in meaningful work with local companies when they are released.

These efforts address only one area of rehabilitation process and there are many more. Officials have also pointed to areas that the prison cannot control, such as suitable housing for inmates when they leave, which officials say will be the next area of attention.

The rehab training is one of the measures recommended in the recent report produced by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC). It also encouraged authorities to engage in a higher level of inter-agency collaboration within government in order to maximize efficiency and to explore further opportunities for partnership with voluntary agencies and private sector companies.

A team of researchers from theHM Inspectorate of Prisons in the UK will also visit Northward later this month to survey inmates and prepare for the inspectors who will arrive in July to conduct a full prison inspection.

While there are costs associated with these developments, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson explained their importance.

“These developments are moving ahead at full-steam, with the objective of bringing the issue of incarceration and rehabilitation to the standards which have been identified – and in keeping with the expectations of the wider community,” Manderson said.

The ultimate goal, he added, is to reduce recidivism, restore families and communities, and break negative cycles that threaten to undermine the stability of local communities.
Reallocated funds from vacant posts under the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs are being used to fund the new positions.

Meanwhile, men whose lifestyles have resulted in them doing hard time can now opt to take advantage of the renewed attention and opportunities to turn their lives around, GIS officials said.

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Category: Crime

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why is participation in this programme only voluntary?

    This captive audience should be made to work – perhaps for the first time in life!

    (Some may even grow to like the concept!)

  2. Anonymous says:

    The money would be better spent making their time in prison solitary confinement as this would have a bigger impact on reducing future crime by stopping criminals getting to know more criminals in prison. Rehabilitation services are something for the outside for those that want it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "The ultimate goal, he added, is to reduce recidivism, restore families and communities, and break negative cycles that threaten to undermine the stability of local communities."


    Although this is a worth while cause and a great tool for offenders , can't we try to do this before they get involved in crimes and end up in Northward/Fairbanks? Where are the trade schools to send our kids to? Not all students/young people are going to be able to work in the bank so again where are the trade schools , you know they would also help as they would have something to do instead of committing crimes to end up in prison!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wholeheartedly with post at 15.28.  Good effort by the prison but its a shame our boys have to go to prison to learn a trade.  Time for good trade school. Past time for it but better late than never.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree entirely! This is a very very good point to make. It would be much better still to be teaching trades etc so that the people don’t offend in the first. Again it’s something that applies everywhere but especially in the Caymans. It is impossible for everyone to work in the banks or at public works!

  4. Pagan Starchild says:

    I think teaching prisoners new skills such as these is a great idea. One day these prisoners will be released from jail so who would you rather have in your community, someone who is angry, resentful and feels worthless or someone who has been taught skills, has some pride in themselves and feels they have something positive to add to their community? To my mind this applies anywhere but in a small community such as The Cayman Islands surely it makes even more sense!

    • Anonymous says:

      Pagan Starchild;

      Wrap your mind around this concept :

      If the students who are considered 'at risk' and will probably never go to college, are offered training in Trade Schools catering to their specific interests  this would assist in the fight against crime even more.

      At risk students are tolerated until they become of the age to graduate here in the Cayman Islands and then they are thrown out into the world having learnt nothing at all. That is where the issue of crime comes in as they don't know how to do anything else to feed themselves. They then end up in either Northward or Fairbanks and government now has to spend money to take care of them while they are in training to learn how NOT TO GET CAUGHT  next time around ,from their more experienced criminal colleagues.

      Now were we to have trade schools, as soon as a student has been identified as 'at risk' we would be able to offer more support to them. You see it would be realized that they are not academically gifted and not headed to a career as a banker, lawyer, etc etc. You would then offer them a place in a trade School of their choice. By them learning the skills to feed themselves by legal means this would give them all the self confidence they need to function in a socially acceptable way. Which in turn would curb some of our crime.

      Now Pagan Starchild do you see the point?

      As I previously stated this is great tool but IT IS NOT ENOUGH !!!!!


      Young Fed Up Caymanian

      • Anonymous says:

        It's akin to offering someone a life vest after they have already drowned. A great gesture but of no real use. The prisoners have already ruined their lives and now they will not be offered positions to put their newly learned skills to use because they have  police records. So whereis the help in that? The road to hell has always been paved with good intentions!!!


      • Pagan Starchild says:

        I did actually reply to you previously but my name showed as Anonymous by mistake. I do agree with you entirely. It would be a far solution to teach the trades and skills in the first place so that youngsters don’t fall into a life of crime in the first place. For elder prisoners teaching skills and trades etc is useful but of course preventing young people from embarking on a life of crime iis of course far more beneficial in every society.

  5. JUST A THOUGHT says:

    This has been going on at the prison before.  They have doing some good work in the past years.  But guess what is happening.  The prisoner officers wants to take all.  They want to have first choice for little than nothing pay back.   These items should be sold to the public and not given to prison officers for pennies.  XXXXX