photo: Natasja Gibbs

PHILIPSBURG – The police found a firearm, countless phones and a selfmade weapon last week in the Point Blanche prison on Sint Maarten. According to Prison Director, Edward Rohan, the only explanation for this is that these items are being smuggled inside by night guards who receive some sort of payment in return.

Warden Edward Rohan in conversation with Natasja Gibbs

Rohan has been warden of the infamous Point Blanche prison since 2012. He has been fighting corruption in the prison since his inception. However, he said it feels like an impossible mission, due to lack of funds and shortage of personnel.

The firearm that was found last week in the Sint Maarten prison – photo: Sint Maarten Prosecutor Office

Visitors innocent
Contrary to what the local media alleges, Rohan doesn’t believe that visitors to the penitentiary are involved in the illegal smuggling of contraband.

“We haven’t caught any visitors smuggling goods over the last two years. The visitors don’t want to risk the possibility of not being able to see their loved ones again. If they are caught smuggling things inside, entry is permanently denied to them. We check very well,” the warden said convincingly.

However, it was not difficult to pass through security with an overloaded bag and a cellular phone half an hour before the interview. Whether an exception was made, is not clear. Rohan is surprised, when he sees the phone: “That’s not supposed to be so, you know.” While leaving the facility, he indicates that the baggage scanner has been defective for weeks and that therefore all checks are done manually. There is no money for repairs or a new one.

The security checkpoint where all is examined by hand because the baggage scanner is out of service – photo: Natasja Gibbs

Organized corruption
The warden is convinced that an organized group of guards is smuggling the articles into the jail during the night shift. “I know for sure that it’s the night shift because there is little surveillance then, there is less security and they do take the risk. It must be a small group, that’s the only explanation I can find for this.”

“The head of the guards mentioned it too; it’s not just one person. Because, when we do cell searches, we don’t find just one, but several phones. And, when we return four weeks later, we find another twenty again. That makes you think: gee – someone is making quite some money here.”

That the situation is untenable, is clear from the last 24 consecutive devastating reports of the Dutch Visitation Committee.

Untenable situation
The warden thinks that it is impossible to tackle the corruption in the jail workforce because of an enduring shortage of personnel. The fact that the situation in the prison is unstable is evident in the 24 consecutive devastating reports released by the Dutch Visitation Committee. The committee urges for improvement.

The new Justice Minister Rafael Boasman, during his recent appointment, said that the prison is one of his main priorities. Despite repeated requests, the Minister declined from giving a reaction.