Jail for mental health patient

| 21/07/2014

(CNS):  While lamenting the lack of a proper treatment facility for prisoners suffering from mental illness, on Friday Justice Quin sentenced Debbie Ebanks to 12 months in prison after she pleaded guilty last week to robbery and related offences stemming from an incident in May when, half-naked, she threatened people with a machete, stole food from Café del Sol and Burger King, and smashed a display cabinet. However, in an unusual move, the judge decided the sentence would be partially suspended if and when Ebanks became suitable for release based on the recommendation of a mental health team and her probation officer.

The justice, defence attorney Fiona Robertson and crown counsel Elizabeth Lees all agreed that Ebanks, 39, was in need of treatment for her dual diagnosis of mental illness and drug addiction, but there are no suitable facilities to care for her in Cayman.

Justice Quin said everyone understands Ebanks is bright and intelligent and doing her best to give up cocaine, and that “everyone wants to see Ms Ebanks out and cured”. He referred to the pre-sentencing report of psychiatrist Dr Marc Lockhart, which said that she would be best served by uninterrupted treatment with a partially suspended sentence, with time in prison also to help treat her drug abuse.

“The concern is the use of the machete. Ms Ebanks could be a risk to others and a risk to herself. To Ms Ebanks’ credit, she accepts her guilt but has a serious drug problem,” Justice Quin said. “It’s clear the doctors feel a period of incarceration with medical treatment would be beneficial.”

In arguing for her client, Robertson said there was a complete lack of proper facilities to treat people like Ebanks. Calling the situation “deplorable and more like a Third World country”, the attorney said that incarceration does not work for Ebanks and that her client would want immediate release so she could be treated in the community. “She feels continued incarceration adds to her difficulty.”

Robertson pointed out that Ebanks had been attacked three times in prison – she has been in Fairbanks for the last two months – and has now been placed on lockdown for her own protection. “She is the victim. Instead of getting help, she is getting harsher treatment than anyone.”

She added that because society has failed, Ebanks has been placed in Fairbanks, that there is no proper separation facility for prisoners suffering from mental illness.

Ebanks’ uncle, Reginald Delapenha, who spoke at the sentencing, said he was committed to assisting any way he could and agreed she should stay under care. But, while he understood the need for incarceration, “as a society we obviously haven’t provided a suitable environment” for treatment of the mentally ill.

“This is a problem the community has struggled with for a while. Clearly, there is not a great priority in addressing this,” Delapenha said.

Ebanks, who is homeless, addressed the judge, pleading not to be sent back to Fairbanks and describing some of the hardships she has faced over the last 15 years, including living in abandoned cars.

Justice Quin referred to the professionals involved in her case, telling Ebanks, “These people are really trying to help you. Nobody wants to see you incarcerated; they want to see you get better.” He added that the 12-month sentence was appropriate for the offence, and accepted Dr Lockhart’s “strong” recommendation for her treatment.

“It is quite clear that there is a desperate need for a mental health facility. It is not fair, not right, not human that people can’t get that treatment. Today’s hearing demonstrates a chronic need.”

Justice Quin said that he would be happy to review Ebanks’ case at any stage to assess if she were suitable for release, adding that it was regrettable that he was constrained by the legislation to the facilities that are available.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Dart can build us a facility for the mentally ill. Maybe if we all post comments about it and tell him how great he is doing with everything else, besides the dump, but maybe that too, then maybe he will take care of it. Maybe he just hasn't thought of it yet.

  2. Anonyanmous says:

    It is a disgrace the way our Cayman Islands Government treats their people with mental issues they either send them to prison or out of the country mainly to Jamaica (which has a good facility) or to one of the less than ok institutations in the USA.  Wake up it is now 2014 and the country should have progressed beyond the 1970s in its care of the mentally ill.  I have watched us build bigger prisons, hospitals, schools, roads and everything in this country but when it comes to the most vunerable those who cannot help themselves, those with mental problems we totally ignore them and treat them as disposables while the rest of the world even those that we classify as third world do better than us (a first world and rich country) with taking care of their citizen with mental issues. In this society the dogs at the humane society is better cared for than the citizens of this country with mental problems.  Shame on government and many of the NGOs who only pay lip service to sexy issues as they like to say such as fundraisers for dogs and cats while the forgotten people are swept under the rug and hidden because as a society we don't want to admit that there are people within our society who have mental problems whether drug related or otherwise.

    • Anonymous says:

      The dogs and cats at the Humane society have to be euthanised as there are so many there. Are you suggesting that treatment is better than the metally ill recieve? you want them to be euthanised. I find that a tad harsh.

      • Anonymous says:

        Stupid, the Humane Society as it stand now, is nothing more than a place for people who are looking for points in the grant for status and to be visiual by walking dogs.  Back in the 80s and 90s it was for people who truly loved animals but now it is nothing more than points for PR.  Maybe it is a better practice to euthanise animals than to lock them up in the humane kennels and only give them 10 mins walk per day and then they even go further and send dogs overseas and you never know what fate the poor aminal have over there because judging by the commercial you see on the tv many dog in the USA live miserable lives much worst than they could ever live here.  

  3. Natural Native says:

    I wrote on this subject before. What a sad state of affairs!!  How can incarcerating Debbie help her with her so needed mental medical intervention?  In this case, I believe drug addiction is "secondary".  PLEASE GET HER HELP.  SOONER RATHER THAN LATER. 


    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman Islands government should be ashamed of themselves.  No matter what she is mentally ill…..drugs or no drugs, she is mentally ill and now you put her in jail where she wll get no help…look what happened to her at Fairbanks…shame on you!!!

      • Anonymous says:


        ALL Caymanians should be ashamed. 

        You haven't sold me yet, as being the christian society you claim to be. 



  4. Anon says:


  5. Anonymous says:

    Clearly a human rights issue as this person is mentally ill and in need of help.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Again, time to hang our heads in shame! I hope 'we' do step up to the plate.

  7. Anonymous says:

    She would have been handed a suspended sentence had she plead drunk. So sad. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    A disgrace to humanity.

  9. Right ya so says:

    This is absolutely tragic. With as many people as there are with mental health issues, why aren't we providing a better facility than the 6 (?) beds at the hospital? Or, is it, that as usual, we'll just pretend there isn't a problem until there is a major crisis?! I think we're getting very close to that point. Come on Ozzie – time to step up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Try reading the news and you will see that the Minister is already stepping up on this issue. 

      • Dread on Dread says:

        Yeah he stepping alrite stepping outa de door swiftly.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ye man, he is stepping up….right. Why don't we just send up to the million dollar school? Can't we house the mental there too since it cost the country so much to build? Geez, c'mon PPM.

        (Sarcasm all the way & SMH)

      • pmilburn says:

        you must be referring to the Texas two step.

    • 24/7 at HSA says:

      Why cant the HSA house hr for her prison term?  The facility is light security.  You CANNOT get in or out of the mental health unit without being buzzed in.

      It is also a hospital so shoud be staffed 24/7.

      Why cant she serve her sentence at HSA Mental Health Unit?

      • Anonymous says:

        Overnight stay at HSA is over $300 per night. That would be almost equivalent of putting her up at the Ritz for the term of her sentence. I don't agree that she should be put in jail but putting her in the inpatient mental health unit is not the fisca solution either.

        • Anonymous says:

          How much does it cost per night at the prison?

        • Anonymous says:

          $300 a night at the hospital… Do you have any idea how much it is a day to prison someone when you figure that one out then you will see it's much cheaper to send her where she should be in the hospital receiving help ! In fair banks Debbie has flood it out and caught it a fire with herself in the form it is no place for her 

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem with the majority of mental persons, is the choices that they made to use drugs.  Their rehabilitation is mainly drug related.  How many of them will choose to go to a rehab centre or give the names of their suppliers?  Deal with the suppliers and we should have less drug addicted individuals to take to court.

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      If Mr Bodden's treatment of the dump crisis is any indicator to expect him to step up and resolve a crisis that can be simply ignored until its someone else's problem seems a trifle unrealistic.   

      • pmilburn says:

        Too busy in Scotland enjoying the Commonwealth Games

      • Anonymous says:

        why sre we so eager to lay blame at otheres feet?  Is it just now that we have drug addicts, that are considered mental.  Some of them maded the choice to use hard drugs that has created their mental state, and the polititians are to be blamed for it.  Where is her family?  Have they reached out to help her, or they are like allthe others, depending on the sperm donor (govrenment) to take up the slack.

        Where are the community minded people?  Is it just 2014 that she has become a mental/drug case?  Always help your falling brother/sister rise.  Lend a helping hand.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agreed. While she may have a mental disability it have may have exasperated by drugs or she only developed her mental condition due to excessively consuming drugs. There should be proper facilities for people who are mentally ill. The problem is once the facility is created will there be proper checks to ensure that criminals aren't pretending to be mentally ill to 'get out of jail'.