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• zondag 17 oktober 2021 18:49

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DH | Prison is inhumane, unacceptable, says former Bar Association President

Attorney-at-law Remco Stomp

PHILIPSBURG–The situation at the Pointe Blanche prison is inhumane and unacceptable, said attorney-at-law and former president of the St. Maarten Bar Association Remco Stomp on Monday.

“The situation at the prison has gone out of hand once again. … It’s a well-known fact that the situation at the prison is far below all standards,” said Stomp.

He said the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (EPT) and European Court of Human Rights have declared the situation at the prison unacceptable and inhumane. This seemingly refers to the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in October 2018 which condemned the “inhumane” detention of Italy-born casino boss Francesco Corallo, who was held at the police station in Philipsburg for months pending his extradition to Italy on charges of money-laundering and tax-evasion.

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According to the Human Rights Court’s ruling in the “Corallo vs. the Netherlands” case, the Kingdom of the Netherlands violated Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The Court awarded Corallo 5,000 euros in immaterial damage and 5,500 euros for costs and expenses incurred before the Court.

In response, the Prosecutor’s Office issued guidelines in November 2018. According to these guidelines, there is a maximum capacity of 70 detainees in total, of whom 63 are housed in Pointe Blanche and seven in the police station in Philipsburg.

“With no progress being made, the situation at the prison has become explosive,” said Stomp. “Prison conditions and the wellbeing of inmates are never popular topics. This is understandable, for most in society are of the opinion that if you have done wrong you have to be punished and do your time. Most also agree that prison should not be a five-star hotel facility but rather a tough place to stay.”

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However, he said the situation at the prison is not about “pampering bad guys” but about “providing the most basic of necessities to people that are deprived of their freedom.”

“Treating inmates humanely, however, is necessary. Not only for the fact that they are still humans and the sons and daughters of residents, but also, and maybe more so, for the fact that these same inmates one day will return to society. This is due to the fact that our legal system is based on rehabilitation,” said Stomp.

According to him, rehabilitation means preparing inmates for a productive life in society after they are released from prison.

“[When – Ed.] the inmate is simply locked up and left to fend for himself or herself in an often extremely violent and insecure environment – without proper accommodation, security, activities, medical/dental services or even clean water – it is very unlikely that these individuals, once released, will be in a better condition than they were before entering prison.

“In addition, being constantly surrounded with others who, in some cases, have specialised themselves in criminal activities, a first offender may become a graduate student in crime and a repeat offender may become a professor in the field.

“If these same individuals were ill-treated and deprived of all their basic rights during their prison time, society may brace itself, for they may come back with a vengeance and commit much worse crimes than before.

“If these individuals, on the other hand, had a very basic but humane treatment during their stay, enjoyed some education or activities that would improve their chances to get a job or start a small business once released, the return to crime would be much less likely,” said Stomp.

According to him, it is in society’s interest to assure inmates are given basic human rights.

“It is only understandable that the inmates are getting ever more frustrated and desperate. And with them all the well-wishing, hardworking … civil servants that have to deal with this unacceptable and dangerous situation on a daily basis.

“One can only commend the inmates and the civil servants alike for the restraint they have shown in this dangerous and explosive situation so far,” concluded Stomp.

Bron: Daily Herald

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