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Pitcairn Islands Study Center

News - March 18, 2009

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TEXT:   707-229-1340

Contact Herb Ford:
PHONE: 559-592-0980 or

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  [California Study Center]


PITCAIRN ISLANDS STUDY CENTER, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California USA.

Herbert Ford, 559-592-0980, 559-732-0313.


                        ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., March 18, 2009—Questions are being raised on Pitcairn Island relative to the health care, solitary confinement, and prison conditions of the one remaining prisoner in the island's jail, long after five others have been granted home detention status.

                        Brian Young, one of six Pitcairners convicted of sexual assaults on the island in years past, who is diabetic and has heart disease, has been the solitary occupant of the jail for almost six months. All of the other men have been released to home detention in their island homes for varying periods of time. Young's convictions were for assaults more than 30 years ago, with no offense of any kind since then.

                        Two corrections officers arrived on Pitcairn in December 2008 with orders to close down the island jail prior to its conversion to tourist accommodations. Young, a descendant of midshipman Edward Young of H.M.S. Bounty fame, was to begin home detention at his Pitcairn home on December 9, 2008, after having had a hearing in late October.

                        Just before Christmas 2008, the Pitcairn Parole Commission in New Zealand informed Young that since no psychologist had evaluated the prisoners relative to possible danger to the community since December 2007, all his documents would have to be given to a New Zealand psychologist for that purpose, and that a decision would be ready before the end of January 2009.

                        The wives of the Pitcairners convicted had appealed to Pitcairn's governor three times in 2008 for a psychologist to visit the island to counsel and evaluate the prisoners, and to help their wives cope with stress. The governor replied that such a visit was not necessary since the prisoners were already assessed as non-suicidal. Rotating superintendents of the prison had said they considered the incarcerated men to be model prisoners.

                        "If we could have had a psychologist here in 2008 as we requested, there would have been a more recent psychological report than 2007 on my husband and the other Pitcairn men. That could have made these delays unnecessary," said Young's wife Kari.

                        When the commission's decision arrived on Pitcairn, the superintendent of the four-member guard unit which had been watching over Young, volunteered to stay on the island with the two newly arrived officers so a 24-hour maintenance of the prison could continue.

                        Two additional corrections officers arrived at the beginning of February 2009, and the superintendent left on the same ship that brought the two, leaving a full crew of four to watch over Young.

                        Though compassionate leave was been granted Young at Christmas 2008, and on some days to do urgent maintenance on his island home that his wife could not do, he remains in the Pitcairn jail with no assurance of when if ever he will be released as the other offenders have been. It has been a half year since the last prisoner was released from the jail to home detention, leaving Young in solitary confinement since last August.

                        On March 5, 2009, a psychologist arrived on Pitcairn from New Zealand to study Young's qualifications for release to home detention. In less than two days, on March 7, he was back on the chartered ship that had brought him for his return to New Zealand. No word was given as to when his report might wend its way to the parole commission, or when that body might render a decision about Young's release to home detention.

                        Universally, the fewer more than 70 people on Pitcairn Island do not consider Young to be any sort of threat or danger to their safety.

                        Meanwhile, the wrong type of insulin for Young's diabetic condition arrived recently on a ship calling at Pitcairn, posing some threat to his health. On Sunday, March 8, 2009, Young was hospitalized in the island's clinic with heart trouble that caused the island doctor to keep him hooked up to instruments all day to get his heart rhythm regular again.

                        As a result of the island jail having been scheduled to close in December, food has not been sent to the island to accommodate the prisoner although food for the guards themselves was brought as they arrived. There is only water to drink for the diabetic Young since the only other drinks available are of the sugared variety.

                        None of the non-sugar, low-carb food diet Young's doctor recommends are available. There is no coffee, milk, flour (Young bakes bread for the corrections officers), etc, on hand at the jail. His wife has been able to provide some eggs, beans, lintels and non-sugar drinks from her meager supply. The often months-long gap between ordering food for the island and its arrival there makes the poor diet Young must undergo a serious health concern.

                        A "Visiting Committee" to look after the welfare of the prisoners in the Pitcairn jail and to check the quality of food they receive was appointed by the governor in 2006. The committee was supposed to meet eight times each year in visitation with the prisoners. Pitcairn sources say the committee has not officially met since April 2008, and did not visit with the prisoners in any organized or consistent way.

                        A March 5-7, 2009, visit to Pitcairn by the island's governor who sits in Wellington, brought a face-to-face appeal to him to make an early decision relative to Young's possible release to home detention. His reply that "My hands are tied," fell on deaf island ears since the Pitcairners know him as the builder and boss of the prison; his office wrote all new Pitcairn law, created the courts, and appointed the lawyers and judges that led to "The Pitcairn Trials" of the offending men.