Published On: Wed, Oct 7th, 2020

Pointe Blanche prison remains stuck in its own quagmire

PHILIPSBURG – To say that things are not going well at the Pointe Blanche prison is a serious understatement. In reality it is a mess and in spite of ten years of monitoring the Plan of Approach, in spite of by now 37 reports and numerous advices from the Progress Committee the situation on the hill remains “worrisome.”

The Progress Committee writes in its latest report that the recently presented prison’s strategic plan and its action plan are ambitious. However: “They have to be executed by people with a daily task at the prison.”

The committee further expresses some sympathy for Minister of Justice Anna Richardson’s desire to solve all problems at the prison under her own steam, but doubts that this is realistic: “The problems require lengthy and intensive guidance on all aspects; the prison and the Ministry of Justice lack the qualitative and quantitative capacity for it.”

The Progress Committee also has its doubts about an advice from UNOPS, the United Nations Office for Project Services. Building a new prison has a prominent place in the UNOPS-proposal from 2019. “However, the point of departure ought to be the improvement of the whole detention-chain,” the committee’s report states. Nevertheless, according to the report, Minister Richardson has indicated that her intention is to grant a contract based on the UNOPS-advice.

The Progress Committee points out that the financing of this plan is “quite uncertain” since the funding has to come from Dutch liquidity support. So far, the government has not agreed with the conditions attached to this source of funding.

Another potential stumbling block is the content of the detention plan; it suggests new construction next to the existing prison facility. The Progress Committee wonders how this holds up against the UNOPS-advice.

Whatever is going to happen, St. Maarten won’t be able to do this alone, the Progress Committee notes in its report. “It is evident that St. Maarten is unable to handle this situation sufficiently. But St. Maarten is only asking for limited support from the Netherlands. Without external assistance the detention situation in St. Maarten cannot be solved.”

Therefore, the committee urges the ministerial consultation (between St. Maarten and the Netherlands) “to discuss the detention situation in all openness, to establish what both countries want to achieve, what has to happen to achieve this, who is the best party to do it and in which way efforts and obligations can be recorded.”

One way to achieve these goals, the report states, is through “conditions for liquidity support in the context of corona-assistance.”

Lastly, the report states that the cooperation regulation “must not become a paper tiger; it cannot bear any more delays.”

At the end of the report is a short list of earlier advices that have fallen on deaf ears with the decision makers in Philipsburg. One of them is the advice to reorganize the ministry of justice and to clean up its personnel formation.


Related article: Report Progress Committee on Police Force: “Dark clouds are emerging.”