On Friday, February 18, 2022, State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitalization Alexandra van Huffelen visited the Point Blanche Prison and House of Detention together with Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs and Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson. They were received by Prison Director Steven Carty, Program Manager Rob Kievitsbosch and the prison’s management team who led them inside for an introduction and presentation about the prison. State Secretary Van Huffelen was accompanied by the Director-General of the Government Information Service Henk Brons, Director of Kingdom Relations/Countries at the Ministry of the Interior Saskia de Reuver and Dutch representative on St. Maarten Chris Johnson.
During the candid introduction, Director Carty spoke briefly about his recent trip to the Netherlands on Minister Richardson’s request, where he was able to undergo training in a prison in the city of Almelo. Following this, he was able to show a presentation illustrating the condition of the prison after Hurricane Irma in 2017 and its current state in 2022. Director Carty was able to express to the delegation that though the prison and house of detention had been battered by the hurricane and had experienced wear and tear, positive improvements had been made to get the prison to where it is at today. The inmates and staff of the prison and house of detention are now seeing improvements in a fully renovated gym to be reopened soon and more repairs and renovations to come in the chapel and workshop.
Prison Director Carty stated, “The damages to the chapel and workshop have greatly impacted the inmate’s daily program. When operational, inmates use the workshop space for carpentry, mechanical work, welding and more. The chapel was used for religious services and recreational activities such as music lessons and more. The renovations of the workshop and chapel are thus one of our main priorities which will bring back many of the daily activities the inmates are used to.”
After the presentation, the delegation was given an extensive tour of the facilities which began with a visit to the watchtower. From here, State Secretary Van Huffelen had a complete view of the prison and was able to understand the layout of the prison and its structure. Following this, the delegation visited the chapel, classrooms, sewing room, kitchen area, air spaces, gym, and workshop spaces. The last renovations at the prison were in 2015, as such, these are all key areas that management of the prison is working on together with the Ministry to ensure adequate facilities where the inmates are part of an efficient and effective daily program. Noteworthy mentioning is that the prison currently has a group of inmates working together with the management team on the improvements. The delegation witnessed the basketball courts being power washed in preparation to be painted. A faded mural on a wall will be replaced by the inmates as they create the new design to paint a new mural shortly.
Minister of Justice Anna Richardson stated, “I am grateful that State Secretary Van Huffelen accepted the invitation to visit the Point Blanche Prison as I find her input as State Secretary with UNOPS is essential. As Minister of Justice responsible for the Prison, staff, inmates and operations, I appreciate seeing the State Secretary interact with the staff and inmates with a shared desire to see all affairs in order to the highest standard sooner than later. Giving her a tour of the facility in my view, gave her a direct opportunity to see what St. Maarten is working with and the urgency to get the ball rolling with the ultimate construction of a new prison. As such, I look forward to UNOPS being on the ground with all focus and efforts infused to move forward with tangible results for our inmate population.”