Saturday , April 1 2023

No prison on Statia

The Daily Herald also reports that the Dutch Government has changed its plans to construct a prison on St. Eustatius due to the high cost, State Secretary of Safety and Justice Fred Teeven announced in a debate with the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday. Detainees from St. Eustatius and Saba serving a longer term will be transferred to Bonaire. He said St. Maarten’s Pointe Blanche prison was not an option due to its “bad state.” Constructing a full-fledged  prison on St. Eustatius for 18 persons has proven “extremely expensive,” said Teeven who didn’t mention an amount in the meeting with the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Safety and Justice. “Exceptionally high costs are involved. Together with the local government, we are now looking at a cheaper, more efficient alternative.”

The alternatives were to either construct a “very small” detention facility where convicted persons could be locked up for a maximum of six months. Those having to serve a longer term would be transferred to Bonaire. The state secretary said another possibility was to “pimp” Statia’s existing police cells where suspects would be locked up for 48 or 72 hours before being transferred to Bonaire.

Teeven said that indeed Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten had informed the Second Chamber early July this year that a detention facility with a capacity for 18 persons would be constructed in St. Eustatius and that the building would be ready by 2016. In that same letter, Opstelten had confirmed that the new prison on Bonaire, with a capacity of 107, would be completed in 2016. “We have to look at the price ratio and at ways to house detainees from St. Eustatius and Saba in a more efficient, cheaper way and possibly even faster. That does mean that detainees will be transferred to Bonaire after 48 or 72 hours. I understand that this also has its disadvantages,” said Teeven.

Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA came up with the suggestion to transfer suspects to St. Maarten instead of Bonaire. He pointed out that St. Maarten was closer by, which was more convenient for the suspect, his/her family and lawyer. “We have looked at that and it is not possible,” said Teeven. He said that the Pointe Blanche prison was in “bad shape,” that there were complaints of the Commission on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe on the facility and that the prison had an under-capacity. “There is not enough capacity to place the few detainees there from St. Eustatius and Saba. Besides, as the Netherlands we don’t think it is responsible to house Caribbean Netherlands prisoners there. I made an issue of it that they would go to Bonaire,” said Teeven.

The state secretary also brushed aside Van Laar’s suggestion to invest in the Pointe Blanche prison and construct a special cell block for the detainees from St. Eustatius and Saba which would create a win-win situation for everyone. “It is a good suggestion, but impossible,” said Teeven. Teeven added that in this case the detainees would resort under the responsibility of the St. Maarten minister of Justice. Cooperation of the St. Maarten Government would also be needed, he said. “Bonaire is easier and more efficient, even though it is 900km farther away than St. Maarten.”

The state secretary further announced that he was looking at having two separate, part-time rehabilitation officers for St. Eustatius and Saba. Currently the islands share one rehabilitation officer. Member of the Second Chamber Michiel van Nispen of the Socialist Party (SP) referred to this as a “vulnerable situation” that wasn’t conducive for the rehabilitation of (former) detainees. Roelof van Laar pointed out that sharing the rehabilitation officer between the islands meant that community service could only be carried out when the officer was present to supervise.

Member of Parliament Foort van Oosten of the liberal democratic VVD party asked about the adverse effect that the supervision by police officers of detainees in the police cells on St. Eustatius and Saba had on the basic police care on these two islands. “How do we prevent that this doesn’t put great pressure on the basic police facilities?”

Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten acknowledged that the supervision by police officers of detainees in the police cells indeed put pressure on the basic police care. He said that for this reason freelance personnel was being hired to assist. He said that talks were taking place with the head of the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force to come to a structural solution. A structural solution was also being worked out with the police chief for the detention of psychiatric patients on St. Eustatius and Saba, said Opstelten in response to a question by Van Nispen. The minister said that the small scale of the islands and the limited capacity of the local hospitals made it nearly impossible to create special detention facilities for these patients. Opstelten said that there were two cases on Saba in 2013 and none on St. Eustatius. This year so far there have been three cases on each of the other islands.


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