Inmates in the Pointe Blanche prison were on strike since October 23.

 

POINTE BLANCHE--The inmates who were on strike for better conditions in the Pointe Blanche prison have ended their action and resumed their work on Monday, their legal representative attorney-at-law Sjamira Roseburg said.

  “The strike has ended for now and the prisoners will start working again. We have received information on paper with set deadlines,” the lawyer said. Minister of Justice Egbert Doran has promised to give an update on the measures to be taken by next week.

  “The complaints of the detainees seem finally to be being taken seriously. There is hope. We will keep an eye on it and, if necessary, will sound the alarm again,” Roseburg stated.

  Detainees who were working in the kitchen, cleaning or doing other jobs in prison had been on strike since October 23. Following a meeting with the Inmates Association on November 22, Doran addressed 20 grievances in a letter sent to the association on Friday, November 29.

  Considering several issues such as inhumane living conditions, a new prison and pest control, as well as making microwave ovens and toasters available, Doran referred to a letter sent to the Inmates Association by the prison director dated November 1.

  “Once we get the electronic monitoring system up and running, this will alleviate the overcrowding,” Doran said, adding that there is a protocol outlining the tasks of the monitoring system, which includes the use of ankle bracelets. “The only hold-up is a response team. I am now busy negotiating to get this team together as soon as possible.”

  The striking inmates had also complained about the fact that verdicts are being sent to the prison late, making it impossible for them to calculate release dates in a timely manner.

  “I will discuss the matter with those departments that are responsible for making the verdicts and [for – Ed.] the distribution, namely the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Courthouse,” Doran said in his letter to the inmates.

  In response to complaints about a lack of care for inmates with medical or dental problems, he said he had referred to the prison director’s letter on this matter and had requested an “urgent update” from the director about the health condition of one of the inmates.

  Where dental care is concerned he said that after conducting some research he had been informed that the dental bus has mechanical problems and needs to be repaired by a company based in the United States. To achieve a short-term solution, Doran said he was in the process of taking the necessary steps to have a dentist visit the prison.

  A lack of recreation and activities was also among the inmates’ grievances. The prison director is investigating whether it would be possible to hire a recreation coordinator, and Doran said he was working on purchasing some pool cues, basketballs and footballs. He said he is still busy conducting research on good behaviour and work incentives, and on the possibility of trainings.

  As mentioned by the director, the canteen list has been upgraded with some extra healthy choices that were introduced on Sunday, December 1. As the distribution of soap is considered a basic right, Doran has requested that the prison director provide inmates with soap for the washing machines at no charge.

  Where the availability of TVs and other electronic devices is concerned, Doran said he has requested that the prison director discontinue the five-year TV policy. All sentenced inmates can receive a TV, he said.

  As TelEm has introduced IPTV and is no longer offering cable TV, Doran has requested that the prison director look into the possibility of using USB sticks to this effect.

  Due to liability issues, all electronic devices will be made available to inmates in the canteen. “We are currently busy exploring the possibilities of Internet access,” Doran stated.

  Public phones are not working. TelEm has said that cables leading to the prison are damaged and the system used at the prison is obsolete and, therefore, no longer in use.

  Doran said he is putting a plan in place to see which company can re-do the cabling and to determine the cost of the project and the cost of a new phone system for the prison.

  Two sets of the Penal Code of St. Maarten will be provided to the prison library, he said.