Published On: Mon, Aug 31st, 2020

USP MPs requesting clarification on concerns brought forward by Inmates Association

PHILIPSBURG — Following last week’s media reports that the Point Blanche Prison Inmates Association expressed its concerns about the health conditions at the institution, United St. Maarten Party (USP) Members of Parliament (MP’s) Akeem Arrindell and Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper sent a letter to Justice Minister Anna Richardson on Monday, requesting clarification on the concerns brought forward by the Inmates Association.

The association, represented by Sjamira Roseburg sounded, what is being referred to as “an even louder alarm” urging the powers-that-be to “get serious about restructuring the prison system or risk facing a situation they will not be able to control.”

The MPs questioned the minister on the concerns expressed by the association regarding the prison’s present capacity, which currently stands at two persons short of the limit, which does not allow for proper quarantining, should the need arise. The guards’ abilities to effectively and adequately execute their duties in the current environment was another concern vented by the inmates through their association. The rehabilitation program which has been stopped after Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and the lack of proper dental, medical and mental care, public telephones, recreational and educational activities, regular pest controls, a proper gymnasium, and recreational area, were cited among the worries of the inmates.

“If the concerns raised by the representative of the inmates of the prison are legitimate, we are heading down a slippery slope which requires immediate attention,” MP Buncamper noted in his letter to the justice minister. While the MP conveyed his understanding of the country’s critical financial situation, he reminded the minister of the humanitarian aspect that cannot be lost out of sight as these people are in the care of the state and thus need to be properly protected.

Seeing the spike in positive COVID-19 cases being experienced on the island and the fact that there have been prison guards and personnel possibly infected and some tested positive for the virus, the MP’s questioned the minister on the current measures in place to avert the Corona Virus reaching into the prison and spreading among the inmates. They also asked if there are any plans to start testing the inmates at the prison. They enquired what procedures are in place should an inmate be tested positive with the virus.

Inmates must be assured that their fundamental human rights are not being trampled upon. In this regard, the MPs queried the validity of the inmates’ statements regarding the lack of proper dental, medical and mental care, and what is being done to rectify the situation. The MPs requested an overview of the plans in place, or to be put in place, to ensure that the rights of the inmates, which include visitations or phone calls, having a recreational and educational program in place, a clean and safe environment, and the provision of rehabilitation programs, are not being violated.


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