THE HAGUE--The fact that many convicted persons in St. Maarten are waiting to serve jail time as a result of the lack of prison cells has the Democratic Party D66 in the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament worried. The party is seeking clarity from the Dutch government.
D66 Members of Parliament (MP) Joost Sneller, Hanneke van der Werf and Jorien Wuite on Wednesday submitted written questions to Dutch minister for Legal protection Franc Weerwind and State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen about the lack of detention capacity in St. Maarten.
An article in The Daily Herald of February 14 this year, headlined “At least 136 people waiting to serve their time in prison,” drew the attention of the MPs. They asked the minister and state secretary how they assessed the fact that per October 2022, at least 136 persons sentenced to jail time were not locked up due to lack of detention capacity.
The MPs enquired about the construction of a new St. Maarten prison through the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). “What is the latest status of affairs with regard to the construction of a new prison in St. Maarten? What is the projected delivery date? How big is the acute shortage of detention capacity?”
The MPs asked for a commitment of the minister and state secretary to, at the next Four-Countries Justice Consultation, engage in talks with the St. Maarten government about solving the acute problem of prison sentences not being executed. They also wanted to know what the possibilities were to have persons convicted to jail time serve their sentence somewhere else in the Kingdom.
Sneller, Wuite and Van der Werf asked for clarity on the issue of lacking detention capacity in relation to the goal to promote good governance in the Kingdom by contributing to the strengthening of the constitutional state of the countries as stated in Policy Article 1 of the Kingdom Relations budget of the Dutch government.
“Do you consider the non-execution of prison sentences in St. Maarten problematic in light of this objective? What is the effect of the non-execution of prison sentences in St. Maarten for the trust in and the functioning of the law enforcement sector there?”
The MPs asked the minister and state secretary to provide their view on the finding in a recent budget policy review of the Kingdom Relations budget that the Dutch investment in the law enforcement sector in the Dutch Caribbean has caused an unbalanced growth.
“Are you of the opinion that the current blockage at the end of the St. Maarten justice sector, namely the execution of prison sentences, is due to the unbalanced, large investments in the parts of law enforcement that focus on investigation, prosecution and sentencing?”
The MPs wanted to know if the minister and state secretary were planning to give follow-up to the recommendation from the policy review to make future investments in the law enforcement sector of the Dutch Caribbean countries based on the overall situation of the sector to prevent blockages elsewhere.