Opinion: Not vandal-proof

POSTED: 04/13/12 4:26 PM

Something must have gone wrong with the construction of the immigration detention center in Simpson Bay. The plan was to equip the building with vandal-proof material. Inmates temporarily detained at the center showed this week that there is nothing vandal-proof about the building. They destroyed a lot of stuff that was supposed to be indestructible.

The incident at the center confirms that using it for criminal convicts was a bad idea from the get go. How on earth did the Justice Ministry think that putting around twenty inmates in one room would not lead to any kind of trouble?

The top floor of the building consists of a large room and there are only two cells if we remember the layout correctly. From this room the inmates have a view of the adult entertainment club Golden Eyes, which – we imagine – adds to their frustration levels.

We do not take all the complaints the inmates filed in a letter to the editor for gospel. How on earth could bathrooms be rusty in a brand new facility? The complaint that the water available to inmates is not filtered also seems to be a joke; there is nothing wrong with the quality of drinking water straight from the tap, even though the bottled water mafia wants people to believe otherwise.

What seems a legitimate source of concern is the alleged behavior of the guards at the detention center. Again, the allegations made by the inmates are just that: allegations. But there is no smoke without fire and for the time being some of the guards are now on public display as masturbating perverts.

Inmates have obviously little to nothing to lose by the complaints they are making. But unrest comes from somewhere, and it is obvious that the inmates who have been moved from Pointe Blanche to Simpson Bay are very unhappy campers.

That there are no recreational facilities at the center is true but then, the inmates are supposed to be transferred every day to Pointe Blanche to follow a day program there. The inmate’s letter mentions nothing about this and that is rather odd.

There is of course a simple way to separate fact from fiction. Monitor everybody in the center – inmates and guards alike – with surveillance cameras. This way there will never be a dispute about who did what and false allegations will be easily disproved. A similar camera system would be advisable for the police station in Philipsburg to monitor the way police officers handle detainees. Accusations about police brutality will then most likely become a thing of the past. We assume that the presence of  cameras will have a positive effect on people’s behavior on both sides of the fence.

In the meantime, the situation in Simpson Bay warrants proper attention. It cannot be so that inmates run amok and then make all kinds of accusations against staff members. It can also not be so that said staff members treat inmates improperly.

There is a lot at stake for all parties involved and the best way to prevent future troubles is to setup a monitoring system that guarantees complete transparency for everyone.

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