An American teen is facing significant jail time in the Cayman Islands for violating quarantine requirements. I first wrote about this yesterday when her sentence was increased, though in the meantime her sentence has been reduced, so let’s go over the details of this interesting story.
18-year-old jailed for quarantine violation
18-year-old American Skylar Mack from Georgia had been sentenced to four months in jail in the Cayman Islands for violating quarantine policies, though yesterday had that sentence reduced to two months. The Cayman Islands requires Americans to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, with no option to skip the quarantine with testing.
The teen arrived in the Cayman Islands on November 27, 2020, and had tested negative for coronavirus both before and after travel. She was there to see her 24-year-old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, compete in a jet ski event. He’s a resident of the Cayman Islands, and has been charged with aiding and abetting her.
Two days after arriving in the Cayman Islands she left her electronic tracking bracelet behind, and went to the event for seven hours, where she allegedly didn’t observe social distancing or mask requirements.
Cayman Islands’ intentionally harsh punishment
The couple pleaded guilty to disobeying COVID-19 restrictions, and initially both were sentenced to 40 hours of community service and a $2,600 fine.
However, a prosecutor pushed for a harsher sentence, suggesting that the lighter sentence wouldn’t deter others from repeating these mistakes. The judge stated that the couple made these choices out of “selfishness and arrogance.”
Interestingly a day before the jet ski event, the Cayman Islands had increased potential punishment for COVID-19 breaches:
- The maximum punishment used to be up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine
- The maximum punishment is now up to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine
Mack was then sentenced to four months in prison, which was still less than the new maximum penalty, but obviously still harsh.
However, yesterday an appeals court decreased that sentence to two months. Mack’s attorney said the following in a statement following this decision:
“Whilst it was our hope that Skylar would be able to return home to resume her studies in January, we accept the decision of the court and look forward to receiving its written reasons in due course.”
Teen’s family asked President Trump for help
This week Mack’s family asked President Trump to intervene. As the teen’s grandmother explained:
“She just wants to come home. She knows she made a mistake, she owns to up to that, but she’s pretty hysterical right now.”
Apparently President Trump’s office wrote back to state that the request would be forwarded to the appropriate federal agency. It remains to be seen if there’s any chance of the sentence being reduced further, or if the reduced two month sentence factors in any pressure that there may have been.
Should we be sympathetic here?
My initial instinct here is to not be very sympathetic, to maybe think she got what she deserved, even if the punishment is harsh. And while I don’t not feel that way, I do think there are a couple of further points to be made, which hopefully others can learn from.
First of all, we see quarantine requirements all over the world right now, though enforcement is so inconsistent. For example, places like Australia, New Zealand, and (apparently) the Cayman Islands, have very strict enforcement. Meanwhile places like New York and the UK theoretically have quarantine requirements, but barely enforce them. If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen violate them, I’d write myself a stimulus check (which would cover a few weeks of health insurance, yay!).
While she was obviously wrong for what she did, I can also see how a teen could come to the conclusion “my friend went to New York recently violating quarantine, so I can do it too.” Obviously that didn’t end well, and one should also be extra careful when traveling to a foreign country.
This also fails to consider that the Cayman Islands actually enforces its quarantine requirements, and clearly this was all premeditated:
- When you arrive in the Cayman Islands you have to sign a document agreeing to observe the quarantine
- You’re given a tracking bracelet, and she intentionally left this behind to violate her quarantine
My other question is whether no one made her aware of how her plan wasn’t a good idea? 18-year-olds can make bad decisions. I certainly know I made my fair share of them. With that in mind:
- Did she discuss this international trip with her family, and if so, did they just not know about the quarantine requirement, or were they fine with her skipping this? Did they realize the potential punishment?
- If her boyfriend is a resident of the Cayman Islands, did he not know about the strict requirements, or why did he think this was a decent idea?
- Was her initial trip planned to be less than two weeks, and if so, was she asked at immigration (and beyond) whether she was coming just to quarantine, and nothing else? If so, did she lie and say yes, or…?
An 18-year-old made a bad, irresponsible, and selfish decision here. Months in jail is a massive punishment that’s arguably too harsh. I’m sure a week (or even a night) in jail would cause her to never make this mistake again.
That being said, I don’t think the prosecutor is wrong, and it’s not like she was violating quarantine in New York or London, where there are no signs of enforcement. She was literally given a tracking bracelet that she chose to take off — she knew exactly what she was doing.
An American teen is facing a jail sentence in the Cayman Islands for violating the 14-day quarantine requirement. She ditched her bracelet to watch her boyfriend compete in a jet ski event for seven hours. While her initial sentence was for four months in jail, that has since been reduced to two months.
I can’t blame the Cayman Islands for wanting to make an example of her, and I’m also curious to see if the sentence might be reduced further.
What do you make of this situation? Is the reduced two month sentence too harsh, or just right?