SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Following up on her letter of September 1st, 2021, Member of Parliament (MP) and Chairlady of the Justice Committee of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten sent another letter to Justice Minister Anna Richardson last week. In the letter, MP Heyliger-Marten again asked the Minister’s urgent attention for the situation at Sint Maarten’s detention facilities.
In a press release Monday night, Heyliger-Marten expressed her deep concerns about the state of the facilities and the treatment of inmates. “My tour of the facilities last year was a shocking experience to me. Since then, too much disturbing information has been received from prison staff and inmates about the situation at our prison facilities. This includes two letters from inmates to Parliament. All this information is reason for great concern. That is why I sent another letter to the Minister of Justice, and why I also intend to organize a tour of the prison facilities by all other members of Parliament’s Justice Committee. They need to see for themselves how serious the situation is” Heyliger-Marten stated in her release.
She further stated that inmates have human rights and should be treated accordingly. According to Heyliger-Marten, inmates should be prepared to make meaningful contributions to the community of Sint Maarten upon their release. “The Government has an obligation to ensure their physical and mental well-being and development while detained, so that we don’t end up releasing hardened and resentful individuals back into our society.”
“Long-term solutions for improved treatment and facilities that are currently being worked on will end up being too little, too late, if we don’t address the urgent issues right now”, the MP stated. She referred to the current trip of Minister Richardson to the Netherlands for meetings regarding the Pointe Blanche prison.
“From reports in the media today, I learned that the Minister is working on a plan of approach, has appointed a program manager from the Netherlands, and has made agreements with the UNOPS proposal. On the other hand, I was also informed that the inmate sewing center that was proudly announced earlier this year is not functioning as yet. And questions surrounding the recent lock-down remain unanswered as well”.
“I therefore hope that the Minister of Justice will promptly respond to my letters, so that Parliament can be informed on what her short-term plans are, and if and how it can support the Minister and the Government with executing these plans.
As Chair of the Justice Committee, I feel that it is my responsibility to take the initiative to secure the human rights of our inmates, starting with a tour of the current detention facilities ”, MP Heyliger-Marten concluded.