THE HAGUE–The structural personnel shortage at the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM and the Pointe Blanche Prison has become of such a nature that urgent measures are needed, including the recruiting of prison personnel in the Netherlands and the prompt filling of the vacancies at both organisations.
The Progress Committee Plans of Approach National Tasks St. Maarten minced no words in its most recent report, covering the last quarter of 2015 and drafted in February 2016: the personnel situation at KPSM and Prison remain “very worrisome.”
As a result of budgetary restrictions of Country St. Maarten, existing vacancies at KPSM have not been filled, which has resulted in an actual decrease of the formation of about thirty persons in half a year. This is in direct contrast with the ambitions of the Plan of Approach which calls for a strengthening of capacity at KPSM.
“No concrete decision seemed to have been taken in the past four to five years to have the formation of the police increase to 275 full-time employees (fte). The same goes more or less for the prison: there is no real noticeable development of personnel,” the Committee stated in its report, which Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk sent to the Dutch Parliament this week.
According to the Committee, the vacant positions at KPSM would be filled in the course of 2016. “But there is no question of growth. Under these circumstances it will become a very difficult task for the Police Chief to achieve a reduction in the amount of overtime.”
The Committee concluded that many aspects of the Plan of Approach for KPSM, instituted in 2010 when St. Maarten attained Country status, had been executed, but that there was “still a long way to go” on the “essential parts” of personnel, education/training, management and formalisation of the organisation, and the definite placement of personnel.
As the situation at the Prison is considered to be even more precarious, the Committee advised the St. Maarten and Dutch Governments to initiate and successfully conclude talks with the Netherlands within short regarding the recruiting of personnel in the Netherlands.
Two important functions in the prison’s management are vacant and the recruiting of guards and a social worker is taking place. However, it is unclear whether these functions will be filled due to the lack of government finances.
The recruitment of thirteen prison guards was completed, but according to the most recent execution report of the Ministry of Justice, the actual appointments hadn’t materialised as yet due to budget restrictions.
The Committee was highly critical about the incomplete management team. “The lacking of an adequate management team, and therefore a strong management, leaves room to undermine the authority relations in the institution. That is highly undesirable for a detention facility.”
Temporary external expertise will need to be arranged because the Committee didn’t expect the Prison to become an adequate performing facility on its own any time soon. Also, a renewed plan was recommended to get the Prison running adequately. “Only then can the facility move in the direction of complying with CPT’s requirements (Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment–ED.)”
The Committee further advised the governments to approve the updated design plan of the Police Force, and to formally endorse the so-called function books at once, so police personnel can be placed in a definite manner in the organisation. The function books of the National Detective unit and the Prison also need urgent formalisation.
The lack of finances to start and/or complete a number of important projects at the Prison, was painfully clear in the executing report that Minister Plasterk sent to the Parliament, in addition to the three reports of the Progress Committee.
Halted have been the expansion of the cell capacity with two levels (one for the regular inmates and one for youth delinquents between the age 18 and 24), the modifications to the entrance, the construction of an outer wall around the entire facility, and the construction of a forensic and psychiatric observation FOBA unit, which is direly needed due to the increase of inmates with a psychiatric condition. Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo is committed to get these projects moving.
The execution report of the Justice Ministry further mentioned a number of actions in the area of personnel education/training planned for this year. An Internal Assistance Team has been assembled for which several guards have applied and have been selected.
The Internal Assistance Team, which consists of eleven persons, will be deployed when order and safety are at risk, such as riots and calamities. The detention facility in Bonaire will provide the necessary training.
A number of personnel will be receiving special training to handle the increased number of inmates with a psychiatric disease. The Director of the Curaçao SDDK Prison has committed to provide training at Curaçao’s FOBA unit. Also, in the course of this year, prison personnel will receive a first aid course.