“No more shortage of prison cells by October of next year”

POSTED: 10/19/11 7:08 PM

Duncan-lecture at courthouse

St. Maarten – “By October of next year I hope we will not have to talk about a shortage of prison cells anymore,” Justice Minister Roland Duncan said yesterday afternoon in a lecture at the courthouse on the occasion of a visit by the President of the Supreme Court, Mr. G.J.M. Corstens. “The box will be ready by then, providing that there are no big demonstrations against it.”
Minister Duncan told a packed courthouse that not all his plans are popular. “For TBS and youth detention we plan to buy an infamous building, the Box in Cay hill. I have a list with about 200 signatures of people who are against it. Are we going to bother the people in Cay Hill? No, but we have a shortage of cell capacity and I am getting very little cooperation from my Kingdom partners.”
Minister Duncan said that Curacao has asked him to take back six inmates. “I refused to do that and they sent me a bill for 300,000 guilders. We had three inmates from the BES-islands who were almost at the end of their sentence. We asked the Netherlands to take them back and to grant them a conditional release. It took eight months to get an approval for that.”
Duncan also referred to Devon Otto, whom he described as a professional killer. Otto is serving 30 years for the murder of census office employee Stanley Gumbs and he is facing new charges for a shooting in the prison in Willemstad whereby he seriously injured two fellow-inmates whom he was supposed to kill. “I have sent a request to the Netherlands to take him off our hands, but I have not received a reply yet,” the Minister said, adding that he had sent the request three weeks ago. Currently, Otto is held in isolation in the prison.
Once the Box in Cay Hill is ready, Duncan said, there will be space in the Pointe Blanche prison to facilitate work to turn it into a real prison. “That project in Cay Hill costs $20 million and we have to find that money somewhere, or come up with a creative way to finance it. For the renovation of the Pointe Blanche prison we need another 800,000 guilders.”
The Minister said that temporary solutions until the Box is ready – like sending prisoners to the Netherlands is too expensive; it would cost €223 ($305) per day per prisoner. In St. Maarten a prisoner costs the government 300 guilders (about $167) a day. Calling on article 43, paragraph 2 of the Kingdom Charter and ask the Netherlands to take prisoners without having to pay for it is not going to happen. Duncan said that he had examined all options. “At the end of the day, we will have to take care of our own affairs,” he said.
Duncan said that the police force will rent the building above the pharmacy across from the police station in Philipsburg to accommodate more officers. Within short his ministry will sign a lease agreement for the old BBW-complex in Sucker Garden. It will be turned into a training center, complete with a shooting range.

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