Urgent need to return police cells to Management of Police is vital to meet pressing needs of Point Blanche Prison

November 7, 2023 6:32 am

Cooperation between Police and Prison Management is essential to ensure effective execution of roles and responsibilities in maintaining a safe and secure society

SINT MAARTEN, (November 6, 2023) – The Ministry of Justice wishes to clarify the distinction between Police Holding Cells and Detention Facilities, the historical context, and the recent ministerial decision to address the urgent need to return police cells to the management of the police. This decision is vital to meet the pressing needs of the Point Blanche Prison while ensuring the safety and security of our community.

Definition of Terms

Police Holding Cells:
These holding cells are secure rooms in a police station whereby suspects are detained temporarily, but for no longer than ten (10) days in Sint Maarten.

Detention Facility:
This term refers to any location used for detention and can include jails or prisons, whereby inmates are forcibly confined under state authority, typically as a form of punishment following convictions for crimes, or an extended term of pre-trial detention.

Historical Background:
The issue of detention and cell capacity has been a long-standing concern in Sint Maarten. In December 2011, former Minister of Justice, Roland Duncan, issued Ministerial Regulation no. 482-11MBJUS to address the shortage of cell capacity and impending renovation of the Point Blanche penitentiary. This decision designated a detention center in Philipsburg and aimed to ensure effective prosecution and prevent the release of suspects of serious crimes.

Current Situation:
In a recent ministerial decision, the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, has decided to return the police cells to their original purpose as short-term holding cells. The international human rights perspective and the personnel shortage within the Point Blanche Prison and Miss. Lalie Center necessitate this change. By this decision personnel will return to the Point Blanche Prison and the Miss Lalie Center, the latter enhancing operations and providing the safety and security for inmates, staff and the entire community.

The temporary nature of the arrangement, which was intended to address an urgent situation in 2011, was prolonged due to consecutive governments falling. However, the current staff shortage within the Prison has led to operational challenges, with personnel being spread between the police station and the Miss Lalie Center.

The decision of Honorable Minister of Justice, Ms. Anna E. Richardson aligns with the organizational structure of the police force, practices worldwide and within the Dutch Kingdom, and it is also a long-awaited decision from an International Human Rights perspective and a cry for the change from the management and staff at the Prison. The same advocates who had been lobbying for the end of keeping long-term inmates at the police cells, which are meant for short-term stays of a maximum of ten (10) days, have been making unfounded claims about the decision.

Minister Richardson takes the safety and security of the Sint Maarten community very seriously. Claims that job functions are missing in the approved Function Book is factually incorrect, as the finalized Function Book by VERSANT includes the updated positions for this function.

The safety and security of both colleagues within the Prison and the broader Sint Maarten community are paramount. Cooperation between the managements of both the Police and Prison is essential to ensure the effective execution of their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a safe and secure society.