PHILIPSBURG – Earlier this year, on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020, a covenant was signed between the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office, the St. Maarten Police Force (KPSM), and Foundation Judicial Institute St. Maarten (SJIB) in order to facilitate electronic monitoring (EM) in the justice system.
This form of digital incarceration is one where electronic ankle bracelets are used to monitor the movements of detainees who are granted temporary release. These electronic ankle bracelets have been used on nine occasions since March of 2020 and brought much-needed relief to the capacity of the Point Blanche Prison and House of Detention.
Electronic monitoring is used on selected inmates to suspend their pre-trial detention. It is also used as an option to allow for conditional sentences ordered by a judge or conditional release from prison. It has been established that there is a misconception among lawyers and prisoners, that prisoners have a right to go on early conditional release with electronic monitoring. That is incorrect. The Criminal Code does not entail a right for prisoners to go on EM prior to their conditional release, neither does the covenant (nor the fact that EM has been used in the past for the early conditional release of a prisoner) create such a right for all prisoners.
The hardware and software for the electronic ankle bracelets are provided by a private company contracted by the Ministry of Justice, however, this contract is coming up for evaluation. As such, the Ministry of Justice will look into the bidding process once more and is asking interested companies to be on the lookout for the launch of the bid.
Minister of Justice Anna Richardson stated that SJIB is still the responsible body for the guidance and overall supervision of participants of the electronic monitoring program. However, the Minister looks forward to the new bid being carried out soon in order to ensure the continued success of the program, through the provision of hardware and software.