THE HAGUE--The Dutch government is holding on to its intention to have the inmates from St. Maarten who are locked up at prisons in the Netherlands return to the island as soon as possible.
Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker stated this on Monday in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Kathalijne Buitenweg of the green left party GroenLinks early March.
Minister Dekker was in St. Maarten last week where he reached an agreement with St. Maarten Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever to get 16 container cells from Bonaire. Minister Dekker visited the prison last Thursday. After Hurricane Irma caused major damage to the prison and many cells became unusable, 31 inmates were transferred to the Netherlands. Up to today, 23 remain in Dutch prisons.
Member of Parliament (MP) Buitenweg asked the minister following reports in the Dutch media late February about the possible return of the remaining 23 inmates, whether this was indeed the intention and if so, under which circumstances would the prisoners be sent back to St. Maarten.
Dekker explained that in October 2018, an agreement was made with the St. Maarten government that per November 1, 2018, the 23 inmates would be returning to the island in phases. “The intention of the Dutch government remains to have the inmates return as soon as possible, which will also benefit the re-integration on St. Maarten,” he stated.
“However, this transfer back greatly depends on the improvement measures that St. Maarten is implementing. The progress of these improvement measures are closely monitored by the Netherlands,” stated the minister.
According to Dekker, the island’s penitentiary facility was not functioning as it should. “Basic things for an enclosed setting need to be brought up to par urgently, but are insufficiently (speedily) realised by St. Maarten,” he stated.
Dekker said that together with State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops he kept urging the St. Maarten government to stick to the October 2018 agreement to make considerable improvements to the prison.
Responding to a question of MP Buitenweg as to the exact number of inmates who have returned, the minister confirmed that eight were sent back to St. Maarten in 2018. Of these eight, three returned to the Point Blanche prison after October 2018 based on information of St. Maarten authorities which showed that shortly after their return, these three would be released.
“As stated in the Mutual Agreement Detention, it is important in the interest of a proper re-socialisation for inmates to return within a reasonable period before their sentence ends. When weighing the interests between detention circumstances and re-socialisation, the latter point carries more weight when the moment of release nears,” stated Dekker.
Five inmates returned to St. Maarten between April and July 2018 due to their legal proceeding. Dekker reassured MP Buitenweg that the inmates would remain in the Netherlands as long as there was no insignificant improvement at the Pointe Blanche prison. The Second Chamber is concerned about the violation of human rights at the penitentiary facility.