(CMR) Last week's earthquake emergency response services have been lauded by the Cayman Islands government and governor as “outstanding”, with praise given to our law enforcement agencies. However, CMR has since learned that the women at Fairbanks Prison did not fare so well as confidential sources reveal they were abandoned in the aftermath of Tuesday's 7.7 magnitude quake that shock the Cayman Islands at 2:10 pm.
The 14 inmates were left with no prison employees to supervise them or ensure their safety in their dorm-like rooms which house anywhere from two to six prisoners. There was no means of them reaching emergency services or safety during a potential tsunami.
Friends and family of inmates at the George Town facility have shared that whilst prison officers fled the prison inmates were left behind with no clear plan on how to evacuate them to safety. In fact, inmates were allegedly left locked in the prison to fend for themselves. Some could be heard shouting and banging on the doors begging for mercy during the immediate aftermath of the quake.
Sources indicate that senior prison management evacuated all staff from the buildings but had no plans for the inmates themselves. It is further alleged that the prison director, Steve Barrett was on site for a meeting at the time of the quake. Persons observed him leaving the facility and stating he had to check on the safety of his wife.
Some three hours later, after 5:00 pm the female inmates were finally allowed to outside into the prison yard for their regularly scheduled outdoor time. They were left to ensure the earthquake, aftershocks and possible tsunami while locked inside of their cells.
We further understand there were no inquiries from management about the welfare of the inmates even after the fact. In what appears to be yet another glaring example of no emergency response plan in place. CMR contacted prison staff who indicated that there is no emergency plan of any kind in either Northward or Fairbanks Prisons. Officers have indicated that in all the years they have worked at the prison, there has never been any kind of emergency training or drill at any time.
Family members are now preparing to ask some serious questions in light of the obvious failings at the facility. One observed:
“I was really surprised to hear that they had no emergency response plan in place and just left our daughters, mothers, and sisters in there to find for themselves. Imagine if this earthquake had actually damaged the facility. Management was concerned about their own families but not the inmates they have a legal duty of care for. This is disappointing and I wonder if they will wait for someone to die before correcting this.”
The concern was so significant that the prison phycologist met with the women and reported her concerns to the Director of Prisons. From all accounts, she received a lackluster response at best. Relatives of the women said they seldom complain anymore about being mistreated because if they do their medication is withheld from them. The vast majority of inmates at Fairbanks are low-risk offenders in for theft and fraud-related offenses and pose little risk of escaping.
The men's prison did appear to fare better with some level of evacuations taking place – despite the fact that they also have no emergency evacuation or safety plan either.
The government has not released any information on this incident.
Note: This is one installment in a series of investigative pieces that Cayman Marl Road is doing on the prison system in the Cayman.