Law firm pleads for better prison conditions, more rehabilitation

POSTED: 03/23/11 11:49 AM

St. Maarten – The law firm Sulvaran and Peterson, which has offices in Curacao and St. Maarten, has written an open letter to protest the conditions at the Pointe Blanche House of Detention. They also urged local authorities to beef their efforts to rehabilitate prisoners so they can return to society as productive citizens.

The principal complaint in their letter is the conditions of a specific prison cell named Gijsellar. The roof of the cell is damaged and the six inmates in the cell get wet every time it rains. The firm is strongly recommending that the six prisoners be temporarily relocated and the cell repaired immediately.

More generally the lawyers say the government needs to examine the fact that prison authorities are treating prisoners like they are beasts, while expecting them to return to society as productive citizens. They believe there will be no real progress in fighting crime if the government does not instruct the prison authorities to focus more on rehabilitiation and the government itself reinforces that by moving away from “building human warehouses” and start “creating institutions that are training schools and factories with fences around them.” The latter type of facility should be a training institute first and a means for inmates to engage in useful production to prepare them for the future and to help pay for their confinement.

“More prisons of the kind we now have will not solve the basic problem. Plainly, if we can divert more people from lives of crime we would benefit those who are diverted and the potential victims,” the attorneys stated.

Sulvaran and Peterson opine that the answer to the crime problem is not in building more cells or implementing longer prison terms. In fact they suggest shorter prison sentences for prisoners who cooperate with rehabilitation and education programs. They also emphasize that convicts should not be “brushed under the rug” once their appeal possibilities run out because this will lead to more crime committed by ex-convicts who have no basic skills and are thus unable to secure employment. While they accept some people will not be rehabilitated the lawyers believe a try should be made with those who are willing to try.

“The destructive arrogance of the psychopath with no concern for the rights of others may be well beyond the reach of any programs that prison or treatment can provide. Our prison programs must aim chiefly at the others – those who want to change. Prisoners should be induced to cooperate by the same methods that are employed by in the private and public areas; Life is filled with rewards for cooperation and penalties for non co-operation. Prison sentences should be shortened and privileges given to prisoners who cooperate,” the lawyers state.


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