Whether you believe that “criminals” are good or bad people, I’m sure that we can all agree that they are human too. Moreover, that also means that they are deserving of their basic human rights and the rights lawfully approved to be instated by the government. The Minister of Justices over the last few years has come in and out of the prison for photo ops promising change but nothing has yet to be done. There are many areas in our local “Point Blanche” prison in Sint Maarten that lack the attention it needs. Don’t be surprised these injustices are not only to the inmates but to the prison guards as well. After numerous pleas to the director of the prison and their superiors, today we would like to shine some light on these areas as follows:
1.) Medical- on November 4th, 2022, an inmate requested medical help at around 8 pm, but he was not attended to until 9:45 p.m. Reason being, there are no nurses or doctors on call not even a medical assistant in case of any emergencies at the Pointe Blanche prison. It is a game of Russian Roulette with our lives.
- Another inmate has had a cyst for the past 2 years and has been given antibiotics by the nurse here most of the time. Whereas we know antibiotics are usually administered for a 2-4 weeks period followed by a doctor’s recommendation just to name a few of our more minor medical issues.
2.) Rehabilitation- whether you care about our well-being of us or not, once our time is served, we have to re-enter society. Consequently, with a stain on our records and a frown from employers and without learning a proper trade or being given the tools inside to progress outside you end up with repeat offenders. Sometimes we believe that is what the system wants, to keep the prison filled. Meanwhile, there are broken homes, children
without a parent and misery for the inmates when it has been proven by research that inmates do better when treated better.
- Fundamentally, we’ve suggested that the ones who can make the decision, would initiate a collaboration between the prison and NIPA school for trade and educational programs for inmates. For funding, they should start by creating more jobs in the prison that can partially be used to fund their education.
People believe that by sending people to prison they should change and become great again because of severity, which usually has the opposite effect. Reform, patience, and the right tools are what enable change.
3.) Verlof and Labor (time off)- it is being picked and chosen as to who gets ‘verlof’ (leave of absence) or not. Usually, verlof is given to an inmate to seek medical care with a family member, to attend a funeral, or to even witness the birth of his child. Some inmates get the authority to leave more easily due to connections and others are given a hard time. That is inhumane and unjust and not to mention a legal violation; it needs to be rectified!
Time off- when we work in the prison, we are entitled to time off of our sentence. Not forgetting that we are legally entitled to be considered for up to 18 months off of our sentence with electronic supervision. This has yet to be practiced for quite some time now. I would like the readers to understand that we are not asking for anything that isn’t already written in black and white as our rights of the Dutch system.
4.) Communication with family/ friends- without a doubt what keeps inmates sane and grounded is communication with their loved ones. There are no phone privileges in the prison whatsoever. People have to wait on a visit to communicate or beg for favors to reach the outside world. Again, it is so unjust! Solution: three phone lines that are
recorded of course where everyone gets phone time is the bare minimum that can be provided. Needless to say, the authorities can revoke phone privileges as a means of punishment as well.
5.) Food & menu- the foods being served are not based on a well-balanced diet. In the long run, we are looking at heart disease which is the leading cause of death, high blood pressure, and lack of nutrients. We were accustomed to getting a fruit once a day and now we’re getting them twice a week on a good week if we’re lucky just to give you a small insight.
6.) Prosecutorial misconduct- to request an early release, a submission is given to the parole/release board. Vindictively enough, only in Sint Maarten, the prosecutor sits on the board which of course usually prohibits inmates from getting their early release. These are the same prosecutors who put us away in the first place. Keeping us in here keeps the taxpayers' money spending on us when in reality the money is mainly going into their pockets. No other Dutch-governed island nor the Netherlands itself has the prosecutor involved in this decision. Why are we being treated this way? We are just a dollar sign for them.
No one from the parole board ever comes to visit or explore our legal right of early release for the inmates who meet the requirements and it is unacceptable.
7.) Lastly but certainly not least:
Prison Guards- are not always as helpful and attentive as they should be but we understand that sometimes it isn’t even their fault. They are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. For example, a day shift should consist of 8 prison guards. Right now, most
days consist of 2 to 3 prison guards for 80 male inmates. I would like you to picture how would 2 to 3 guards separate a fight or an act of violence even towards them. It is a setup for failure, injury, and even death.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not asking for anything much or anything that isn’t within our rights. We are requesting the tools to be better so we can do better. We are requesting our basic human rights! I hope the governor is reading, I hope the Minister of Justice is reading, I hope the Parliamentarians are reading. This is our cry for help before we just have to help ourselves the way we know how to. –ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!--