index.jpgCAYMAN ISLAND

Deplorable Jails
GRAND CAYMAN — Britain’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick has called for urgent reforms and significant investment to quickly improve conditions at the overcrowded lockups, which he portrayed as dirty and disorganized.

Conditions were found to be so dismal that Hardwick said many of the facilities should be demolished on the wealthy British territory, a grouping of three tiny islands that boasts the world’s sixth largest financial center and the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. In his report, which provides a rare window on a Caribbean jail system, Hardwick said he was shocked by the poor conditions his team found at the two small prisons and police and court jail cells.

His inspection team concluded that cells at Grand Cayman’s HMP Northward prison are “decrepit, chaotic and dirty with an oppressive and intimidating atmosphere.” Use of illegal drugs was rampant in vermin-infested cells and few attempts were made at rehabilitation before releasing convicts back into society.  A small number of juvenile offenders share accommodation with adult male convicts, he said.

Police holding cells in the  capital George Town and the community of West Bay are “barely fit for human habitation.”
Eric Bush, the Cayman Islands’ chief officer for internal and external affairs, said the government will work to improve conditions but added that it will be challenging in “economically austere times.”

REGION

Economic Dip
ST. MICHAEL, Barbados — The Caribbean Development Bank reports that the region’s economic output fell slightly in the past year and is warning countries to increase their productivity levels and remain competitive in the tourism industry.

Bank President Warren Smith told reporters that the region posted a one percent growth rate in 2012, with nine member-countries reporting a stalled economy and six others a decrease in economic activity. Only two of the bank’s 18 member countries posted an economic gain above three percent: Belize with its agricultural production and Guyana with an increase in bauxite and gold mining.

BAHAMAS

Ferry Service 
MIAMI — A high-speed vessel, the Maverick, is offering roundtrip crossings between Miami and Bimini on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The once-daily ferry service departs PortMiami at 9 a.m. and Bimini at 5 p.m. It is anticipated that service will be increased for the summer season. The Maverick accommodates up to 357 passengers and the trip takes just under two and a one-half hours. For more information, visit ferryexpress.com

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

Coral Sentencing
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Ashu Bhandari, former president and CEO of an upscale jewelry manufacturing company, was fined nearly $1 million for smuggling black coral into the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bhandari was also ordered to spend one month in jail, complete 300 hours of community service and pay nearly $230,000 to the University of the Virgin Islands for projects to research and protect black corals, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The sentence marked the end of one of the largest federal cases involving illegal trade in wildlife. Bhandari pleaded guilty in November to one count of false classification of goods to hide shipments of internationally protected black coral that his former company, Gem Manufacturing Inc., received from Taiwanese suppliers.

Bhandari he was the last defendant to be sentenced in a case that spawned a three-year investigation that also sent two of his business partners to prison. Ivan and Gloria Chu of Taiwan-based Peng Chia Enterprise Co. Ltd. pleaded guilty in 2010 to illegally importing black coral as part of a plea deal. Ivan Chu agreed to serve two and a half years in prison and pay a $12,500 fine and Gloria Chu agreed to serve 20 months and pay a $12,500 fine.

Charlotte Amalie Smoking Ban

Smoking has been banned at all beaches inside the islands’ national park system, covering cigars and pipes, as well as cigarettes, and is enforced from within 50 feet of the shoreline. National Park Acting Superintendent Mike Anderson said the ban applies to all 12 of the territory’s protected beaches, which are on the island of St. John. Rangers are not yet issuing citations but rather educating the public. The ban was approved to eliminate secondhand smoke and reduce the number of cigarette butts tossed on beaches.