Caribisch Netwerk reports from The Hague that it is uncertain if Statia will get its own prison to host Saban and Statian criminals. It appears that the cost for a detention center for eighteen inmates is so high that the government started to look for alternatives.
In any case, the detention of prisoners in the Pointe Blanche prison on Sint Maarten will not be an option. “We cannot detain prisoners from the Caribbean Netherlands there,” according to State Secretary of Security and Justice, Fred Teeven.
“The condition of the Pointe Blanche prison is too bad and there is under-capacity,” said Teeven today in response to the suggestion from Labour MP Roelof van Laar during a debate in parliament on the justice chain BES. “Today, Sint Maarten itself is often taking prisoners to Bonaire or Curaçao because of the problems.”
Also Van Laar’s idea for a separate, new block of cells for the people of Saba and Statia on St. Maarten is opposed by Teeven: “We have considered that, but it is not possible. Moreover, the Minister of Justice of Sint Maarten would then responsible for these inmates. This would be food for yet another discussion. “
Teeven explained that several options are being explored. They are looking if a cheaper detention center on Statia would be a possibility, e.g., one where prisoners could be detained for up to six months.
Another option that is being investigated, is the design of ‘pimped’ police cells, “where people are allowed to be kept for a maximum of 48 or 72 hours. Anyone who needs to be detained longer, will have to be transferred to the prison on Bonaire, as is already done today. “However, it is the exception rather than the rule that people from Statia or Saba have to spend more time” says Teeven.
The small size of the islands remains a focus point for MPs Van Laar and Michiel van Nispen (SP). They wonder whether a rotation system might help to ease the work of the police, prison guards and probation. “On Saba or Statia there is a high chance that an arrested person is family or an acquaintance,” said van Nispen .
However, at the same time, knowledge of the local situation on the island can be very beneficial for addressing issues such as domestic violence. “Is it possible to think up a clever scheme whereby the benefits outweigh the disadvantages?” asks Van Laar to Minister Ivo Opstelten. The latter indicated that his staff is working on these issues. “I noticed, that the willingness to step forward is not very high on the islands. That is why, the use of the marechaussee is working so well. A rotation system will be essential to maintain the level of integrity.”
On a question of van Nispen, Teeven answered that, due to the small scale of the islands, it is not feasible to set up a separate detention capacity for psychiatric patients. Teeven reported that, in 2013, there had been two of such cases on Saba in 2013 and none on Statia. So far, this year, there have been three cases on Saba as well as Statia.