Archive for February 15th, 2013

Treasury owed $16.5M

Treasury owed $16.5M

| 15/02/2013 | 104 Comments

iou.jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands government was owed more than CI$16.5 million in uncollected debt at the end of 2012, a freedom of information request has revealed. The massive hole in the public purse ranges from more than $250,000 on more than 280 bad cheques to $1.7 million on 698 uncollected garbage fees. The heftiest debt of all, however, is some $12 million owed to government for overseas medical expenses. The open records request made by a CNS reader shows that during November the Treasury recovered just over $94,000 and then in December just under $83,000. However, more new debts were added worth $109,745 in November and a further $79,800 in December.

The 1,495 debts on unpaid fees to government run across the board, from cruise passenger and travel tax to loans issued by various government departments. The FOI request did not state the length of time any of the specific single debts had been outstanding but with the apparent increase in cash owed to the government coffers exceeding the small amounts government seems able to collect each month, the debt appears to be a significant problem.

According to the Debt Recovery Unit, however, no new bad debt cases have been referred to the legal department since April, despite the obvious conclusion that the Treasury has been owed some of this cash for a long time.

The debt owed to government represents around 3% of its annual operating revenue.

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Prison failing to control drugs

Prison failing to control drugs

| 15/02/2013 | 37 Comments

Prison entrance.JPG(CNS): Despite claims by authorities that prison officials make every effort to control drug use at HMP Northward and are constantly trying to intercept smugglers, the recent damning report from the UK’s prison inspectorate paints a different picture. Describing “high levels of drugs” in Northward and a pervasive “smell of cannabis throughout the establishment”, the inspectors said the prison took no action to prevent the ingress of drugs. The report described a small security team of two officers regularly redeployed to other duties with no targeted drug testing of prisoners. What testing was carried out showed 28% of Northward inmates using drugs but there is no clinical treatment for prisoners with substance misuse issues.

While prison management and representatives have always insisted that the battle with drugs in Northward is an ongoing challenge faced by all prisons around the world, the inspectors pointed to a complete lack of effort to do anything about the significant amount of ganja that finds its way into the prison.

Following an inside view of the prison and the drug use published on CNS last year, in which a former inmate related his experiences at Northward, prison officials said there was “no tolerance for contraband found within Cayman's prisons."

Eric Bush, chief officer of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, said prison officers were on “constant watch” and worked “relentlessly to prevent such contraband from entering”. Three months before the inspectorate came to the prison and confirmed the revelations of the CNS source, Bush had denied that officers were complacent or lax about prisoner drug use and claimed searches were carried out on a daily basis and inmates had been both tested and charged.

However, the UK inspectorate raised many concerns about how drug use in the prison was being handled. The team pointed to a failure to liaise with the local police other than getting them to dispose of drugs found in the prison and the lack of intelligence gathering by officers relating to drug use in the prison, who did little about its consumption.

The report described the mandatory drug testing facilities as poor and not sufficiently clinical, being carried out in the women’s toilets at both sites. On-site urine analysis testing was carried out for cannabis and cocaine, although almost entirely for parole or compliance reasons. Testing equipment was inappropriately stored along with staff food items. In spite of the high positive drug testing rate, the common knowledge of regular drug use and the anecdotal knowledge of high-profile prisoners within the drug culture, there was no prison specific drug strategy or even a programme of target testing.

“There was no immediate or on-going clinical treatment for prisoners with substance misuse issues arriving at either Northward or Fairbanks,” the report found. “In our survey, 24% of men had had a problem with drugs and 13% with alcohol on arrival at Northward, and a further 13% said that they had developed a problem with illegal drugs while at the establishment. In spite of these statistics, there was no provision for prisoners with drug or alcohol misuse issues to receive immediate, safe, effective and individualised clinical treatment.”

Consultant psychiatrists estimated the percentage of patients on their community caseload with mental health and substance misuse issues to be around half but there were no similar estimates for the prison population. The national anti-drug strategy described as a ‘master plan’ to prevent illicit drug use and treat those dependent has no specific targets and does not address the prison issues, the inspectors found.

Related article on CNS: Drugs rule local jail

See report below.

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