The container cell jail in Bonaire
PHILIPSBURG–“A team” is currently investigating the logistics, financial consequences and structural needs for the infrastructure of the sixteen-cell containers that have been agreed to for the Pointe Blanche Prison.
The public relations officer of Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever, Lorraine Scott told The Daily Herald on Wednesday that these issues are being investigated given the fact that St. Maarten is located in the hurricane belt. She said additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
Netherlands Minister of Legal Protection Sander Dekker and de Weever recently agreed on the 16 containers being shipped from the Netherlands to St. Maarten to house inmates at the Pointe Blanche prison to improve the detention facility’s capacity. Dekker was also treated to a tour of St. Maarten’s detention facilities including the Philipsburg holding cells and Simpson Bay holding rooms, to witness first-hand the improvements to the facilities.
The containers were intended to house two prisoners as parties continue to look at the possibility of building a new state-of-the-art prison. When at a press conference last Thursday about financing by the Netherlands for the rebuilding of the prison, Dekker had said the Netherlands has been assisting with technical expertise. “The country has a council and a budget. We expect the country to foot the bill as the government of the Netherlands continues to support the government of St. Maarten in different ways,” Dekker had said at the time.
This was not the first time St. Maarten was promised container cells. Then-Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk provided a written update on the strengthening of law enforcement in the Dutch Caribbean countries to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in 2016, in which he informed the members that Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten would be taking over 33 prison-cell containers from Bonaire early 2017. Information on the individual numbers per country was unavailable at the time.
Then-Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur offered the prison-cell containers, which can hold 84 inmates in total, to his colleagues, the Ministers of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, during the Judicial Four-Party Consultation JVO held in Aruba early 2016.
According to Plasterk, in 2016 an agreement was made with the three countries that each would take over some of the 33 cell containers. No specific number per country was mentioned in the letter. The Bonaire penitentiary is the largest prison in the Caribbean Netherlands and also holds inmates from St. Eustatius and Saba.