SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) – The Minister of Justice and prison management took note of the latest concerns raised by the Point Blanche Prison Inmates Association and their legal representative, according to a Wednesday press release from the Prison Management Team. This includes biased references that are not based on facts, that no measures were taken to protect the inmate population from contracting the COVID-19 virus while incarcerated.
“The Prison Management would hereby like to inform the general-public that the core tasks of the institution are to:
“Please be hereby informed that since the beginning of the month of April 2020 the Management team of the Point Blanche prison implemented all the existing security and safety measures, as well as implemented the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines as set forth by the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour to protect both the staff and the inmates.
“Due to the rapid increase of COVID-19, persons in society, as well as the fact that two staff members of the institution were also affected with the virus, prison management took additional measures to mitigate the risk of exposure to the inmate population by suspending all social visits. The inmates can still communicate with their loved ones via telephone conversations, skype, and video messaging. All newly arriving inmates are being screened for COVID-19 exposure, risk factors, and symptoms, and are quarantined in a separate location for 14 days. Legal visits and Court hearings are being accommodated via Zoom sessions.
“The institution’s medical doctor screened and examined the inmates to ensure that none of them were infected and possibly passed on the virus. Asymptomatic inmates with exposure risk have been quarantined.
“All staff members are required, prior to entry to any of the detention facilities, to wear a mask and wash/sanitize their hands. It is mandatory that a mask is worn for the duration of each shift. No exceptions are made.
“We fully understand the concerns brought forward by the inmate’s representatives. Concern of longstanding issues that includes prison overcrowding, the overall dilapidated conditions of the Point Blanche prison, as well as concerns that are being dealt with, forthwith, and with the utmost attention and urgency despite the current financial circumstances our country is facing in general.
“We will keep working on the incremental improvements as the plans for the physical reconstruction of the Point Blanche Detention Center advances.
“As a community, we must work together to achieve inmate reduction overall. Our management team will continue to work to solve the pressing issues facing the inmates based on plans and recommendations that were made in the past by the law enforcement entity, the progress committee CPT-recommendations, and the strategic action plan of the Prison management.
“Our ultimate goal is to pursue a compassionate, rehabilitative approach to reduce the demand on the custodial system and to successfully integrate those in our care back into the community.”