Inmates and guards are fed-up with the current situation at the Pointe Blanche prison.
The prison is facing a great number of issues: lack of guards, malfunctioning locks, showers and toilets that are not functioning, rusted gates, poor health care, no dentist, no phone calls, all falling under this new management team, who seem incapable for the job.
Steven Carty and Wilfred Williams have been placed at the prison since February 2017, as the interim directors for a period of three months in order to have the situation at the prison “normalized,” which has been very unsuccessful.
The situation is very worrisome at the prison. Some guards have left simply because the burden is too heavy. Having guards working over-time everyday takes a toll on the human body and stresses the brain. Most of the time there are four guards on shift: 3 females and 1 male, which is ridiculous for an institute that houses over 120 individuals. On weekends it becomes even worse with guards not showing up to work and (if they do come) at all, it’s mostly one guard who starts at the 11:00am shift.
On Sundays, visiting hours for inmates start at 9:00am, but due to the lack of staff (guards) the families of inmates end up waiting for hours in front of the prison from 9:00am to see their loved ones because there are no guards at the visit booth, most times all up until 11:00am.
Three females, 1male guard working in the area of 120 inmates, is very unsafe for both inmates and guards. This situation is a hot topic that has been in limbo for a lengthy period of time and even though in 2016, the prison recorded its first ever fatal incident, nothing has been taken seriously. We see the Minister of Justice Spokesman blatantly lying about “adequate security” when they know or maybe are not informed about the day to day situation.
The Court of First Instance recommended the Justice Minister to have guards in place within a three-month period. Also with other recommendations, which have expired since July 1, 2017, it seems that the Minister of Justice has totally ignored the court verdict.
While the inmates and guards continue to work and live in an inhumane and degrading environment, rusted gates, damaged locks, there are a couple of cells which house 3 inmates per cell, and the toilets are not flushing at all, and there are no parts to have the toilets repaired. Inmates are not dogs, but management is treating them as if they are animals by ignoring their complaints. It has been more than 4 months since these bathrooms have problems and the only answer is “they don’t have the parts.” Now this is totally against human rights.
Just recently the Netherlands condemned the Belgium prison for being inhumane. How come in St. Maarten we are allowed to stay in an inhumane situation while in Europe everybody is against inhumane situations in the prison? How come we are so unequal that nothing is being done?
The Minister of Justice applauded the court verdict on March 31, 2017 during a Parliament session stating he is pleased with the judge’s decision because most of the recommendations he “already had a plan on.” Apparently that statement was not truthfully stated.
Here we are five months later and nothing has changed. Not even the simplest of things to be implemented like washing machines, new books, new guards, rehabilitation and educational programs for the inmates. The prison is overcrowded and the Ministry of Justice is not looking for any solutions to decrease the growing population of the prison, which is still housing 3 inmates per cell in a cell only fit for 2 persons. Right now there is no training of the guards, and the list goes on. The Justice Minister has not complied with the verdict, which was laid down by the Court of First Instance in February 2017 against government Country St. Maarten.
It’s clear to see the Minister of Justice Mr. Rafael Boasman has been great at ignoring important things regarding the prison, which is currently overcrowded. The Minister of Justice seems to have no intention of implementing the electronic monitoring system, which was a great success in the past. Last week there was another article in The Daily Herald newspaper, which stated that the company had sent numerous emails to the Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman, which he failed to respond to. This system would save the government a significant amount of money.