Concrete box in Cay Hill is “a fantastic possibility”

POSTED: 06/27/11 2:08 PM

St. Maarten – Samir Andrawos’ concrete box in Cay Hill is “a fantastic possibility” to solve St. Maarten’s prison cell shortage, Justice Minister Roland Duncan said yesterday morning in Radio Soualiga’s broadcast On the Record, but it will take about a year before the building will be ready for use.

“We have 6000 square meters there and that is adequate. This is not a political deal. We want to expropriate the building for public use. If there is a dispute it will have to go through the courts.”

Duncan contested that the building is illegal. It would have been, he said, if Andrawos had been allowed to keep it in its present form. “The government needs the building for public usage. And yes, we have to change the zoning, but the building will be used for the public good. We will gut the floors and put in prefabricated cells. We will need about a year to finish the work.”

The Minister said that country St. Maarten has to take care of its convicts. “We cannot say: Cay hill is too precious so we cannot have a prison there. We would probably hear the same thing had the building been in Belvedere or in Middle Region. What’s the difference? I refute that houses near the prison will go down in value. Why? Did the houses in Pointe Blanche lose value because we have a prison there? If anything, there will be more police presence in the district.”

The Minister asked citizens to understand the government’s position. “We have to deal with the scarce resources we have. Expanding Pointe Blanche would have cost us 60 million guilders. I ask the population: don’t you care how your government is spending its money? The solution in Cay Hill is much cheaper.”

The Justice Ministry has considered alternatives, like sending prisoners to the Netherlands. But the price tag, not considering transatlantic transportation, is steep: €323 (about $459). Curacao charges 180 guilders ($100) a day, and Duncan estimates the cost in St. Maarten at 300 guilders (about $167) a day. Sending prisons elsewhere, even to Curacao, makes family visits more cumbersome (if not impossible if the family does not have the means to fly out), and it also complicates contacts with local defense attorneys.

Currently there are twelve prisoners from St. Maarten in Curacao, while there are 6 inmates from Curacao in St. Maarten. Pointe Blanche is also home to four convicts from the BES-islands.

Duncan said that the funds to start the first phase of the renovation at Pointe Blanche are available. Before the work starts, prisoners have to be moved to an alternative location: the top floor of the immigration detention center in Simpson Bay. This facility is expected to be ready for use by July 15.

An old Ballast Nedam plan to expand Pointe Blanche with 100 cells would have cost the government around 60 million guilders. But that plan, Duncan said, does not provide for separate youth detention and correction facilities. With the box in Cay Hill, the justice ministry gets the opportunity to separate adult and juvenile criminals.

Duncan said that the location in Cay Hill also allows for housing administrative offices and a big kitchen that could also cook food for the schools. In the new setup, Pointe Blanche will remain what the minister called “the major lockup.”


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