PHILIPSBURG — The limited availability of cell capacity at the Pointe Blanche prison is costing the government a fortune. The Volkskrant reported in November 2019 that the 31 detainees that were at that time in Dutch prisons cost the government in St. Maarten €120,000 per month ($129,600 at the current rate of exchange. That’s $4,180 per prisoner per month.
St. Maarten was forced to move prisoners to the Netherlands after Hurricane Irma caused serious damage to the Pointe Blanche prison. Per May 2023 – 68 months and counting since the hurricane – those prisoners have costs the government already around $8.8 million, though the total could be a bit lower because several prisoners have in the meantime returned to the island.
However, the transfer of local prisoners to the Netherlands continues. The public prosecutor’s office announced that it has moved another four prisoners to the Netherlands in May and that three more will follow by the end of the month. These detainees have been sentenced for serious crimes like murder, manslaughter, bodily harm and sexual assault on a minor. They are serving sentences ranging from 2 to 22 years. The seven ‘exported’ detainees will cost the government more than $29,000 per month, based on the numbers published by the Volkskrant.
According to the prosecutor’s office the transfers are necessary because of safety concerns but they also free up sorely needed cell capacity. The available space will be taken up by suspects that are currently detained in pre-trial detention in Philipsburg.
The pressure on the prison system remains unchanged. As a result, some suspects awaiting trial have to be sent home because there is no cell space available for them.
Related article: Four prisoners transferred to Netherlands for safety reasons