Published On: Sat, Apr 11th, 2020

Progress Committee: justice ministry is not in control

Porgress Committee SXM Chairman Nico SchoofPHILIPSBURG – The Progress Committee writes in its 36th report that the situation at the prison still leaves much to be desired – to put it mildly. The report covers the last quarter of 2019, though the committee executed its inspection tour in de last week of January, 2020.

A massive initiative is needed to bring about substantial improvements within a reasonable time, the report states, adding, rather ominously: “We do not see those movements yet.”

Executing the 2018-2023 detention plan for the prison is a “comprehensive and large project,” the report states, but just two people have to do all the work: the prison director and a civil servant at the Ministry of Justice.

“The prison director has his hands full with the work that has to be done at the prison and the civil servant at the ministry also has other tasks,” the committee observes.

The report identifies the justice ministry as a major stumbling block: “Important documents are often lost and there is no form whatsoever of policy guidance towards the judicial organization.”

The report arrives at the harsh conclusion that the justice ministry is not in control of its organization. Everybody agrees though that the ministry’s performance has to improve but that it cannot continue with the current limited staff of fifteen.

The report states that the ministry will have to go through reorganization as soon as possible to make sure that there are sufficient skilled personnel to execute tasks properly. “Only then improvements in the judicial organization can be executed.”

Executing the detention plan requires a program manager and at least six staff members, the report states. The ministry must have sufficient qualified personnel for the maintenance of the detention plan, after it has been executed.

For years the Progress Committee has emphasized in its reports that the detention situation in St. Maarten is “absolutely inadequate, dire and dangerous.”

“Inmates and staff are repeatedly confronted with serious violence and there is no authority that can guarantee the safety in the facility. This way St. Maarten’s population is also at serious risk. The risk of further deterioration of society’s safety in the short and the long term is significant.”

It is evident, the report states, that St. Maarten is unable to put a stop to this situation in a satisfactory manner. In spite of this, St. Maarten has only asked for limited assistance from the Netherlands while the Dutch effort to help also remains limited.

The Progress Committee urges both parties – St. Maarten and the Netherlands – to discuss the detention situation thoroughly and in a transparent way, to establish what they want to achieve, what has to happen to make this a reality, which is the best party to do this and to establish how mutual efforts and obligations can be documented.

Progress Committee in meeting with Formateur Theo Heyliger - 20180425 TR

Photo caption: File photo of the members of the Progress Committee in a meeting with Theo Heyliger as Formateur on April 25, 2018, discussing the prison situation. Top photo: Chairman Nico Schoof.


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