photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – Sint Maarten is preparing itself for a fight against the coronavirus, but ‘the measures taken in the Pointe Blanche prison amount to nothing’. These are the words of attorney Sjamira Roseburg. A prisoner was tested on Monday for the coronavirus. The first test was negative, the result of the second test is not known yet.

A corona outbreak in a decrepit prison can overburden the medical facilities on the island. There are currently almost seventy detainees locked up in the prison. The hospital on Sint Maarten only has three intensive care beds.

Home arrest with ankle monitor the solution?
“The prison is overfull and unhygienic”, says attorney Roseburg. “I’m concerned about my clients. While the ones of us who live in the outside world have to keep our distance from each other, detainees are kept together, two per cell. That’s not handy.”

Roseburg asks that detainees who have nearly completed their sentence or those who have been detained for small infractions, be released. “The ankle monitoring system has to be introduced quickly.

Roseburg sent a scathing letter to the minister of Justice, Egbert Doran. She still hasn’t received a reaction. When Caribbean Network  asked the minister for a reaction, he wasn’t available.

The minister said however in a press conference on Thursday that the detainees are no longer allowed to receive visitors and that family members and lawyers could talk to them through Skype. Further measures to stop the coronavirus from entering the prison, like extra hygiene rules for the guards, have not been announced.

Prisoners start court case
The worrisome situation in the Pointe Blanche prison cannot  be news for the government of Sint Maarten. Human Rights organizations have been complaining about the situation for a longer period of time. There have also been 34 devastating reports from the Voortgangscommisssie Sint Maarten based out of the Netherlands since 2010.

Just before the corona crisis hit, a court case where 37 detainees of the Pointe Blanche sued Sint Maarten, was supposed to take place. The detainees wanted to use this case to force the country of Sint Maarten to transfer them to ‘safe’ prisons in the Netherlands or on Bonaire.

According to the detainees, Sint Maarten cannot guarantee their safety within the prison. Additionally the living conditions within the prison are inhumane. But due to the corona crisis, all court cases have been postponed for an undetermined period.

Picture: 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.