Duncan presses forward with plans for prison facility in Cay Hill, St. Maarten

POSTED: 06/20/11 12:59 PM

Residents have security, property value concerns

St. Maarten – Minister of Justice Roland Duncan has said he is not implicitly rewarding Sameer Androuwos for illegally constructing a third floor on the facility known as “The Box” in Cay Hill, by taking over the facility. The Justice Ministry has surveyed the building and they believe it can be used as a second prison, but residents have signed a petition asking government not to move forward with the plan.

“In effect what I am doing is expropriating the property for a public purpose, not for the purposes that Mr. Androuwos intended and therefore it does not matter that the third floor is still there. As a matter of fact if the government had taken over the building and decided to make first two floors, which were constructed with a permit, commercial space and the third floor, which was constructed without a permit, then we would have to tear down that third floor, but since the purpose has changed, there is no such requirement,” Duncan said.

Negotiations on the price to be paid for the property as part of the expropriation are still ongoing. Government has asked KPMG to set a value for the property that takes into account a discount for finishing the building and making it ready for use as a detention center. The exact payment method is also still being worked out. In one instance government is considering renting or leasing to own. In another instance they’d like to purchase the property outright using cash the government would receive from the division of the final estate of the Netherlands Antilles.

Duncan sees using “The Box” as an easy way to solve the shortage of available prison space as the Pointe Blanche Prison is full and in need of renovation, suspects are being held in police cells too long and there are clamors for early release. There are also long term issues like the need to have a youth detention center that keeps young offenders separate from hardened criminals.

“Putting some prisoners in Simpson Bay while we renovate the Pointe Blanche Prison is a temporary solution. Having the Box, which is 85 percent complete, is a more permanent situation,” Duncan said.

Security Concerns/Opportunity

Cay Hill residents don’t want a prison facility in their area because they think it could devalue their property and they fear for their safety. But Duncan, who also lives in that area, has rejected the assertion saying, “There’ve been people who escaped Pointe Blanche prison and we’ll be adding security to the area by having the prison guards there. Also we can sound proof the building so the residents won’t be disturbed.”

Duncan said acquiring the facility and potentially the land around it would also allow government an opportunity to acquire land to build social housing for the waiting list of people who need it.

 

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