PHILIPSBURG:--- The main items on the agenda of the meeting between Minister Richardson and State Secretary Knops on Thursday, September 23, 2021, were the status of the discussions with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in connection with building a new prison, the Plan of Approach for the Pointe Blanche prison, measure H.11 of the Country package for Sint Maarten which concerns the further strengthening of Sint Maarten’s border control agencies with the assistance of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, and the status of the Function Book for KPSM. Accompanying Minister Richardson to the meeting with State Secretary Knops was Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus.
Minister Richardson and State Secretary Knops agreed on the way forward in the discussions with UNOPS and affirmed their commitment to finalizing the process. Both are dedicated to have the realization of a new prison soonest and have agreed that within the coming weeks, important milestones must be achieved. Further discussions, regarding a clear timeline towards this end, will take place on a technical level.
Discussing the first days of her work visit to the Netherlands, Minister Richardson shared with the State Secretary that her visit has already provided much-needed insight into how prisons function in the Netherlands and how Sint Maarten’s detention facilities compare to these institutions. The opportunity offered to see Dutch prisons, has now more than ever strengthened Minister Richardson’s resolve to have a new prison facility built on Sint Maarten.
Minister Richardson further shared with State Secretary Knops her great appreciation for the enthusiasm that she received from the prions directors and their support staff and their willingness to assist Sint Maarten with the challenges to its prison system. As a result, Minister Richardson expressed to State Secretary Knops that she truly wishes to build on the opportunity presented, to further realize collaborative efforts between the Netherlands and Sint Maarten, and will be contacting the State Secretary and his colleagues within short to discuss ways on how to proceed in the short term.
The Plan of Approach for the Pointe Blanche prison was written at the end of 2017 by persons from the Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency (DJI), who came to Sint Maarten from the Netherlands after hurricanes Irma and Maria severely damaged the prison. Although written several years ago, due to circumstances the recommendations of that plan have not yet been implemented.
To implement the recommendations of the Plan of Approach, the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations embarked on a search for a program manager to lead the execution of the plan. Mr. Robert Kievitsbosch was appointed as program manager for the Pointe Blanche prison and arrived on Sint Maarten on August 1, 2021. Minister Richardson informed State Secretary Knops that Mr. Kievitsbosch has hit the ground running and has been instrumental in ensuring that the Minister sees various versions of penitentiary institutions in the Netherlands. Minister Richardson has now been exposed to various styles of operations that have great rehabilitation programs, skill development, and various levels of safety, security, and specialist care offered to clients.
Mr. Kievitsbosch was requested by Minister Richardson to continue to connect with his network in the judicial chain to forge partnerships and explore the willingness to assist Sint Maarten with its efforts to improve both the detention facility of the Point Blanche Prison and the Miss. Lalie Center.
Minister Richardson informed State Secretary Knops that to ensure that measure H.11 of the Country Package is executed as agreed upon, former Lt. Governor and former Minister of Justice Dennis L. Richardson has been appointed to lead the process and development of the plan of approach connected to the measure H.11, which will outline how Sint Maarten’s border control agencies with the assistance of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, will be further strengthened. Under the guidance of Mr. Richardson, the heads of the relevant departments meet regularly to establish the plan of approach. The group is supported with technical assistance to produce the first draft of the plan of approach.
This draft will provide a framework of the scope of areas that, once finalized, will be managed by a policy for the actions the authorized border authorities will have to act and execute their work on in the effort to better protect and manage migration activities, visitors, shipments that enter and exit Sint Maarten etc.
Measure H.11 can be considered a continuation of the border strengthening project (Onderlinge Regeling Versterking Grenstoezicht Sint Maarten) that came into effect in 2018. That project with the financial and technical assistance from the Netherlands saw to it that Sint Maarten’s border protections agencies such as Immigration, Customs, and the Coastguard received the necessary resources and capacity building to improve their operations.
The final topic discussed with State Secretary Knops was the Function Book for KPSM. Minister Richardson advised State Secretary Knops that the Function Book for the Ministry of Justice contains the functions books for all the departments that fall within the Ministry of Justice including KPSM. The advice from the Council of Advice on the draft Function Book was recently received by the Ministry of Justice. The recommendations have been studied and many of them have already been incorporated in the updated version of the Function Books. Minister Richardson expects the Function Books to be finalized within the coming weeks and assured State Secretary Knops that she will keep him informed.