photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – The prisoners being held at the Pointe Blanche prison on Sint Maarten have been on ‘strike’ for two weeks. Prison director Alwin Keli has responded to their list of twenty demands, but the prisoners want assurances from the minister himself.

So says attorney Sjamora Roseburg, who speaks on behalf of the prisoners. The list consists of demands such as a working washing machine, pest control, a microwave, and access to dentists and doctors. “In a nutshell: the basics”, says Roseburg.

The detainees who have ‘jobs’ – like distributing food, helping with the janitorial services – are refusing to do these. There’s a chronic staff shortage at the Pointe Blanche prison, so each pair of helping hands is needed. The detainees are threatening further actions if short term solutions are not presented.

Want to know exactly what is going on inside Sint Maarten’s prison? Read about it here:

Photo by Tim van Dijk

Prisoners Sint Maarten on strike: ‘this can’t be happening within the Kingdom in 2019’

An overflowing prison that’s crawling with roaches, almost no recreational facilities, and begging for medical assistance. The prisoners being held at the Pointe Blanche prison are tired of the situation.

The director of the prison, in a letter to the prisoners, has informed them that several of their 20 demands such as a washing machine, pest control, and cell repairs will be met in November, says Roseburg. “The prisoners understand that every problem can’t be solved at once. Even though the director has given them an answer, the prisoners still want a guarantee from the minister that improvements will be made shortly”, according to the lawyer.

The acting minster of Justice, Perry Geerlings, says that he’ll send his reply to the prisoners before the end of the week.

‘Sint Maarten is failing in its duty of care’
That the government is failing in its duty of care when it comes to the prison can be seen from a ruling handed down on October 29th: the government has to pay damages to a 28 year old ex-detainee. On February 14th, 2017 he was stabbed in the prison and has been living with the consequences ever since.

According to the judge, it is the duty of the government to ensure that enough funds, staff, and resources are made available to create a safe environment within the prison. “It is clear that Sint Maarten has failed in these aspects”, according to the ruling.

The Voortgangscommissie Sint Maarten, who has been monitoring the justice system on Sint Maarten since October 10th, 2010, was on the island last week. “The prison is still a big headache that has a negative effect on the rest of the system”, says the chairperson Nico Schoof. The commission visited the prison during their trip, but Schoof did not speak to the prisoners personally. “That would only create more turmoil”, he says. “We received all the information which we needed.”

Want to know what the commission encountered during their last visit? Read more:

Growing concerns about safety on Sint Maarten due to worsening state of prison

The ongoing lack of detention capacity in the prison on Sint Maarten negatively affects the safety on the streets of the island. So says Nico Schoof of the Voortgangscommissie Sint Maarten. “Crime and fear are on the rise.”