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Prison Comments on Inmate Arrest

Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation Dr. W.A.R. Rattray

"While we are confident that we have good procedures in place, an internal inquiry has started into this serious incident," stated Commissioner of Prisons and Rehabilitation, Dr William Rattray.

Following this morning's (Friday, 3 April) arrest of a 38-year-old Northward Prison inmate as the main suspect in the murder of Sabrina Schirn, Dr Rattray was referring to the prison programme which allows inmates to work at its East End farm.

Announcement of the arrest came during a joint RCIPS/Prison press conference, during which statements were issued by Dr Rattray and Acting Police Commissioner James Smith, who thanked Northward officers and staff for their assistance during the investigation.

Media representatives were told that the murder suspect had participated in a programme that allows inmates to work on the prison's 200-acre farm in East End. Dr Rattray explained that prisoners are subjected to stringent security risk assessments "before being allowed to work outside the secure perimeters of HMP Northward.

"We are devastated by this tragedy and its effect on both Sabrina's immediate family and the wider community, but at the time of this incident he was a Category C inmate - almost the lowest risk category. As such, he was allowed to work on the farm as one of the steps in the rehabilitation process."

Category C inmates are described as requiring medium supervision; they are considered unlikely to be dangerous in the event of an escape and may move unsupervised within the prison but will be monitored while outside.

Dr Rattray emphasized that Her Majesty's Cayman Islands Prison Service (HMCIPS) did not negligently put Sabrina's life at risk. "We operate to international standards, but no instrument can possibly predict human behaviour with 100 percent certainty. We have accordingly begun a thorough review to determine what lessons can be learned."

He added that there is an element of risk each time a prisoner's security level is reduced to facilitate rehabilitation.

A maximum of one dozen inmates work the farm during daytime hours, supervised by two prison officers who are also horticulture instructors. The farm programme has worked successfully since 2003 and has expanded to include agriculture, cattle and fish farming.

Today's inmate population count stands at 209 males at Northward, and 20 females at Fairbanks Prison.


Statement from Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation Dr. W.A.R. Rattray

First, personally, and on behalf of HMCIPS, I extend my deepest sympathies to Sabrina's family. I would also like to remind everyone that no-one has been found guilty of her murder. Despite the fact that a serving prisoner at HMP Northward has been arrested, he has not been found guilty of any crime. Consequently, my comments will not focus on the individual who has been arrested as that could both prejudice the investigation and any subsequent prosecution whilst, also, potentially prejudicing the individual's right to a fair trial. I will, of course, comment on the more general issues in relation to how HMCIPS conducts its operations. Notwithstanding, Sabrina's family, and the wider community, need to know that HMCIPS did not negligently put Sabrina's life at risk. Whilst recognising that this is a tragedy for the family, it could also undermine public confidence in HMCIPS. This will be small consolation to the family but I hope that what I have to say will help Sabrina's family and the wider community to understand that HMCIPS did, and continues to do, everything it can to reduce the risk to any member of the community.

Before any prisoner can work outside the secure perimeter of HMP Northward a thorough security risk assessment is undertaken. This risk assessment, which examines both static and dynamic factors, is the most sophisticated available. Prior to the introduction of this assessment, HMCIPS conducted an international review of available security risk assessment instruments and settled on the instrument currently used. It is impossible to find, let alone create, a risk assessment instrument that can possibly predict, with 100% certainty, human behaviour. I am a prison professional of 33 years standing. Prison professionals have to take risks. But, I repeat, there is no instrument that can, with 100% certainty, predict human behaviour. Also, society wants us to ensure secure custody but also want us to rehabilitate prisoners. Every time we reduce a prisoner's security level to facilitate his/her rehabilitation we take a risk for, and I repeat again, there is no perfect predictive instrument. Nonetheless, we have confidence in the instruments we use whilst understanding they are not 100% reliable. This incident is an aberration which could not have been predicted by any instrument currently available to predict human behaviour anywhere in the world.

HMCIPS is an internationally high performing prison service and our track record, benchmarked internationally, is something the Cayman people can be proud of despite this tragic incident. Having said that, whilst we have confidence in our procedures, clearly, we have begun a thorough review to determine what lessons can be learned.

Statement from Acting Commissioner of Police Mr James Smith

"Thank you for attending this press briefing, particularly at such short notice.

There has been a significant development in the investigation into the death of Sabrina Schirn. At 9:00am this morning, detectives arrested a 38-year-old male who is currently incarcerated in Northward Prison. He is a member of a programme that allows prisoners to work on the prison farm.

I would like to thank Commissioner of Prisons, Dr William Rattray, for the assistance and the cooperation he and his staff have given to this complex enquiry.

I would also like to thank the police investigation team, led by Inspector Kim Evans, which has worked long and hard to bring the investigation to this stage. The investigation is by no means complete and officers will continue to look into all aspects of the incident until we are confident that all lines of enquiry have been exhausted.

I will not be commenting on the report of the forensic pathologist at this time and no further comments on the investigation will be made to the media after this briefing now there has been an arrest."

For further information contact: Lennon Christian