St. Maarten Justice officials tour potential second prison site

POSTED: 05/16/11 12:28 PM

St. Maarten – Minister of Justice Roland Duncan and key members of the judicial chain visited “The Box” in Cay Hill last Thursday to inspect whether it could serve as a detention center for convicted prisoners and people in pre-trial detention. Chief Public Prosecutor Hans Mos talked about the inspection on Sunday when he was a guest on For the Record with Eddie Williams on Radio Soualiga 99.9 Choice F.M. Also along on the tour were the Director of the Pointe Blanche Prison Rudsel Ricardo and Chief Commissioner of Police Peter de Witte.
Mos believes using the facility will give the Justice Department 215 additional places to detain prisoners and a place to keep items that need to be impounded as evidence.
“For example right now, if we confiscate a car as evidence, it sits in front of the police station and if it is vandalized then the owner has a civil claim against us for the damages to it. So this would give a secure space,” Mos said.
The chief public prosecutor also stressed that while he could understand people not being comfortable with having prisoners in their neighborhood, that the plans include adding walls or taking some other action that would protect the community.
“It’s already a deserted area anyway so we are trying to come to an agreement for what seems like a convenient space,” Mos said.
Using the facility inspected Thursday will allow the Justice Ministry to potentially move young offenders away from “the University of Crime” that exists in Pointe Blanche prison where they meet with hardened criminals, for the government to proceed with the renovation of the prison and provide additional detention capacity for people who have not yet gone to trial. At the moment the prosecutor’s office is forced to release people from pre-trial detention because of a court order.
“We are harassing the minister that we have to send people home, because Pointe Blanche is too full and the judge says we can’t hold them any longer in the police cells. It is always painful to send people home when we have evidence that they should be behind bars and we want to stop that,” Mos said.
Using the box will allow the island to earn some money as the French government has requested that people who are suspects or who are convicted of crimes in St. Martin be housed on the Dutch side. The request was sent roughly a year ago.
“When I saw that request I laughed and we sent back an informal response that we were not able to meet that request because we did not have space for our own prisoners, but if we are able to get this facility then we would be able to accommodate that request by making a treaty, and of course the French government would have to agree to pay the costs,” Mos said.
The chief public prosecutor also said he asked the prisoners during a recent visit, “not to hold the minister hostage” because the government of the Netherlands Antilles had not fulfilled its responsibility on its turn to upgrading the prison.
“When I started here in St. Maarten I discovered plans that dated back to 2005 that projected we needed to expand to something like 325 places at Pointe Blanche. We’re now 6 years further and nothing has been done. So now we had 10-10-10 and we have a new minister and he is trying to solve the problem, but it costs a huge amount of money,” the chief public prosecutor said.
Mos also said that having to comply with the court order to release criminals from pre-trial detention after 26 days if there is no space for them in Pointe Blanche, is demoralizing for the police, which his department works closely with and depends on.
“One thing we had to contend with is that on May 4 we were confronted with possibly releasing two of the suspects in the rash of murders, but we said no way, and instead we had to release two people who had committed break ins and that hurts me. I have that as a hot potato on my sleeve and I don’t want it there anymore,” Mos said.

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Comments (1)

 

  1. Captain Zen says:

    use some churches as detention centers, that would be a better use than a mass 1x a week!