PHILIPSBURG--The conditions at the Pointe Blanche prison and COVID-19 testing among inmates have come under scrutiny from United St. Maarten Party (US Party) Members of Parliament (MPs) Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper and Akeem Arrindell, who seek answers from Justice Minister Anna Richardson.
Buncamper and Arrindell posed questions about the prison to Richardson in a letter on Monday. This follows last week’s reports of inmates being concerned about COVID-19 after several prison workers reportedly tested positive.
The inmates also appealed for improvements to the dilapidated and almost-full detention facility, urging authorities to “get serious” about reforming the prison or “risk facing a situation they will not be able to control.”
The MPs asked Richardson whether there are plans to test inmates and about the protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the prison population in the event an inmate contracts the disease.
Buncamper and Arrindell questioned Richardson about the inmates’ claims of having improper dental and medical care, and what is being done to correct the situation. They also requested an overview of plans to ensure “that the rights of the inmates, which include visitations or phone calls, having recreational and educational programmes in place, a clean and safe environment and the provision of rehabilitation programmes, are not being violated.”
The MPs said that, despite the country facing a precarious economic position, inmates’ basic human rights should not be trampled on.
“If the concerns raised by the inmates’ representative [lawyer Sjamira Roseburg – Ed.] are legitimate, we are heading down a slippery slope which requires immediate attention,” said Buncamper. “These people are in the care of the state and thus need to be properly protected.”