Criminals released due to lack of prison cells

POSTED: 03/6/11 9:34 PM

St. Maarten – The pressure on the prison system is reaching boiling point. The Judge of Instruction and the judges in the Common Court of Justice ordered last week the transfer of several suspects that are in preventive custody at the police station to the House of detention in Pointe Blanche within 24 hours; if this was not possible, the suspects had to be released.

The court orders caused a flurry of activity at St. Maarten’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. Two defendants in the human smuggling case that stood trial on Wednesday and that are facing prison sentences of between 2.5 and 3.5 years have been released. A suspect of an armed robbery whereby shots were fired and who was scheduled to appear in court this coming Wednesday, was also released.

The prosecutor’s office managed to keep the three suspects of a human smuggling transport that took place on December 5 and whereby eight people drowned, behind bars with a desperate move.

The three were moved from the police station to the Pointe Blanche prison before twelve o’clock yesterday morning, as the court had ordered, but upon arrival no cells were available for them yet. “Technically” they were in the Pointe Blanche prison.

Prison cells became only available after St. Maarten Justice Minister Roland Duncan, who is currently in Aruba, signed decrees to facilitate the release of a couple of convicts who had almost served their sentence.

But this emergency measure is no longer possible due to the fact that all other detainees in preventive custody as suspected of serious crimes. There are no inmates left whom the Justice Minister could safely send on their way.

On Monday the prosecutor’s office and the Justice Ministry will be confronted with a tough choice, because that day two other detainees who are currently in preventive custody at the police station will have to be moved to the Pointe Blanche prison before twelve noon.

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