Justice Minister Duncan: “Crisis in prison system is management problem”

POSTED: 04/25/12 3:38 PM

St. Maarten – The crisis in the prison system Today reported about yesterday is a management problem, Justice Minister Roland Duncan told this newspaper yesterday. The Minister reacted to our question whether he is ready to pick up the phone and call The Hague for help.

As a matter of fact, Duncan said, he has explored many options in the Netherlands. He asked about a prison boat that is sitting idle in the port of Rotterdam, only to hear that the vessel would be unable to make the trip across the ocean. Transferring prisoners to the Netherlands is expensive, and making a military plane available for their transport has been shot down, Duncan said.

The management problems he referred to have to do with decisions by the public prosecutor’s office about whom to detain, and by the prison management about the way it organizes its day program for the inmates.

But the Minister’s biggest grief is with the courts: the ruling by Judge Luijks that the only effective sanction for violation of prisoner’s rights is immediate release, and his assertion that the maximum stay in a police cell has to be brought down to ten days.

That detainees have been released because they were unable to follow the day program at the Pointe Blanche House of detention has the minister flabbergasted. “What is a day program? They watch TV and they practice some sports.”

Duncan said that he is still working on a solution for the Box in Cay Hill. There is an agreement with the owner, he said, and it is now a matter of finding the financing for the plan. Then the whole plan would have to go through parliament. By the time a decision is taken, it would still take one to one-and-a-half year before the facility is ready to receive its first detainee.

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