Independent investigation into circumstances prison suicide

POSTED: 11/12/11 7:12 AM

Guard suspended; attorney points to director’s responsibility

St. Maarten – The national detective agency (landsrecherche) has been charged with an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the suicide of Robert Reid in the Pointe Blanche prison on October 24. Reid was detained as a suspect in the murder of his 13-year-old daughter Tiffany.

Three days after the suicide, prison director Rudsel Ricardo suspended prison guard S.A.A. who was the watch commander on October 24. In a ministerial decree dated October 27 Ricardo stated on behalf of the Justice Minister that “an investigation has been started against the prison guard S.A.A. which in all fairness concludes that the person concerned deliberately committed very serious neglect of duty (forgery/not making the rounds or letting others make the rounds from the post huisdienst from 23.00 – 5.00 hours and or leaving his post as the watch commander on duty between October 24, 2011 23.00 and October 25 5.00 hours).”

The decree informs the prison guard that “in the interest of the above mentioned investigation” he has been banned on behalf of the Justice Minister from access to his work and the premises of the prison and the House of Detention.”

The Dutch text of the decree is confusing, because the relevant sentence that should have ended with “wordt ontzegd,” reads “dient te vervoegen.” This suggests that the prison guard actually has to report to work.

Attorney mr. Shaira Bommel filed a complaint with the office of the public prosecutor about the apparent suspension. Her client says that he was not the only prison guard on duty that night. In a letter dated November 1, she asks for an independent investigation into the circumstances under which Reid died. Prosecutor mr. B. den Hartigh answered the next day that the order for such an investigation has already been given.

mr. Bommel pointed out in her letter that the national ordinance on the penitentiary system states that “the prison director is responsible for the management and the procedures in the facility.”

“The nurse in the House of Detention has reported to Mr. Ricardo a week before the lifeless body of the inmate Reid was found that Mr. Reid had suicidal tendencies. If an inmate has suicidal tendencies the director must take immediate measures. The inmate is placed in a separate cell and kept under close watch. The doctor is also informed. This procedure was followed when inmate C. was suicidal and the nurse had informed the director,” Bommel wrote.

Based on the above, the attorney continued in her letter to the prosecutor’s office, “one could conclude that this is a case of serious neglect of duty by the director, Mr. Ricardo.”

Because Ricardo cannot investigate himself, Bommel’s client wants an independent investigation, and that is now on the desk of the landsrecherche.

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