PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On October 13th, 2021, a cell inspection was carried out at the Point Blanche prison and house of detention by prison staff, in collaboration with KPSM, Customs, the Coast Guard and the Dutch Marines. Cell searches are common procedures undertaken by prison authorities with a view to maintain order and security in penitentiaries. These searches can be periodic or result of an identified specific risk. In this case there were reasonable grounds to believe that illicit items were present in the prison facility upon which a large-scale cell inspection was initiated.
High-tech equipment was used to inspect and detect illegal items such as a drone, hand detection devices and K9 units. The cell search revealed contraband was hidden in electronic devices (game consoles and televisions), sealed food packages, between walls, inside walls, hidden in chairs, toilets, matrasses, vents etc. Amongst the illegal items found were shanks, phones, forms of narcotics, containers with self-made alcoholic beverages and other forms of weapons. Contraband in a prison environment pose serious risks to the safety and security of prison workers, visitors, and prisoners alike as the potential for violence with weapons is high and the use of narcotics can lead to undesirable behavior. In addition, mobile phones can be used to facilitate the smuggle of contraband, and to coordinate other criminal activities inside or outside the prison. As a result of the security operation and adjusted security measures currently taking place, it was prudent that all scheduled visits to the prison facility were postponed for security and safety reasons.
Based on article 29, sub 2 of the ‘The National Decision Containing General Measures, Establishing the Prison Measures’, the director is permitted to regularly authorize searches of all areas where inmates reside. The unauthorized items found during the searches may be confiscated in connection with safety and security. The main purpose of a cell search is to locate illegal items and remove them from the inmates’ possession and guarantee safety for the persons in the facility. As a result of the thorough way in which these searches are conducted, it may happen that items are damaged in the search process. In the event that claims of damaged items are reported by the inmates, the Prison and House of Detention will further investigate this matter and take further action if necessary.