The Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, visited the penitentiary institutions (hereafter PI) in Almelo and the Penitentiary Psychiatric Center (hereafter PPC) section in PI Zwolle on Tuesday September 21st, 2021. With Dutch (financial) support, Sint Maarten intends to replace the Point Blanche prison and House of detention with a prison that is built in accordance with the latest standards and will apply policy reforms to address inmate rehabilitation. The prison envisioned will be comparable in size to PI Almelo, where there is room for 190 detainees. Forensic care, which is provided in the PPC Zwolle, will also be necessary in Sint Maarten’s new prison facility.
The first prison visited was PI Almelo, where the Minister was welcomed by Ton Golstein, the director at the institution, and his staff. PI Almelo was selected as the prison to be visited by Minister Richardson due to its scale and size. It is one of the smaller prisons in the Netherlands that can serve as an example to Sint Maarten and from which we can learn a lot due to its comparable capacity.
Ton Golstein formed part of the Custodial Institutions Agency (DJI) group that came to Sint Maarten to support the prison after hurricane Irma. That DJI group made a thorough analysis of the Point Blanche prison and House of Detention in 2017 and produced a report that serves as the plan of approach to improve the prison today. Mr. Golstein and his colleagues were therefore very familiar with Sint Maarten’s situation which allowed for meaningful dialogue and suggestions for the prison on Sint Maarten.
Ton Golstein said: “Among other things, the Minister wanted to take a look at the Extra Care Facility section within our prison. Such a department, for vulnerable detainees, does not exist in Sint Maarten.”
One of the sentiments expressed in conversation to the Minister is the concentration to ensure for after care to be facilitated upon release. This is the efforts of the programs at PI Almelo to avoid that ex-inmates from falling back into a life of crime.
“We have also shown her our House of Recovery (Huis van Herstel), where detainees from the region spend the final stage of their detention in a less secure setting and receive extra care and attention so that they can reintegrate and become productive members of society,” says Ton Golstein. The Minister also received a tour of a large production facility called ‘De Fabriek’ (“The Factory”), which offers inmates as well as persons with intellectual disabilities, an environment to work in and earn money. The Factory is made possible in cooperation with stakeholders from the local business community.
In the afternoon, Minister Richardson visited the PPC section in PI Zwolle. In a PPC, high intensive care is provided in a secure setting to inmates with serious mental health and psychiatric disorders. PI Zwolle offers space to 350 inmates, including 146 spaces within the PPC section.
“In addition to our establishment, PI Haaglanden, PI Vught and JC Zaanstad also have such a PPC facility,” says deputy branch director, Marieke Verhoeff.
Staff working at this PPC particularly have experience with the Dutch Caribbean and establishing a forensic care facility from the ground up. Minister Richardson aims to have such expertise applied in Sint Maarten as well to establish a similar, much needed forensic care section for mentally challenged inmates. Only then can they receive adequate care needed to treat and stabilize their condition.