St. Maarten’s court nullifies Minister’s decision not to grant prisoner’s conditional release
PHILIPSBURG – The Court of First Instance, on Tuesday, nullified a decision by the Minister of Justice to deny a request for conditional parole submitted by an inmate of the Pointe Blanche prison. The prisoner in question was immediately released by Court order.
Based on the penal code a person convicted of a crime is entitled to conditional parole or early release, after serving two-thirds of the sentence. However, the prison sentence must be more than 12 months.
To obtain conditional parole, the prisoner has to be screened by prison management and an advice must be given by the Central College for Probation (Centraal College voor de Reclassering (CCR)), which is chaired by attorney-at-law Bert Hofman.
In this particular case, a urine test revealed that the prisoner had used marijuana while in detention at the Pointe Blanche prison. Despite the overall screening in favour of release, the CCR advised negatively solely because the prisoner had failed his urine test. The Minister of Justice followed the advice and denied the conditional parole citing the use of drugs.
An appeal was launched against the Minister’s decision by attorney Brenda Brooks. The Court agreed that the decision by the Minister of Justice to deny conditional parole could not solely be justified on the argument that the prisoner tested positive for the use of marijuana.
Attorney Brooks stated that she was “quite pleased” with the decision in this case, not only because the Judge agreed with her position that the decision to deny parole was not founded in the circumstances in the case, but also the considerations that were given in the judgment.
The Judge stated, “It is a fact of common knowledge that the situation in the Pointe Blanche prison leaves much to be desired. In addition to the building problems, it is very worrisome that there is no day programme for the detainees. They sit practically all day in a cell and there is no form of rehabilitation.”
Brooks further stated that “something needs to be done” at the prison and “promises made by the Ministry of Justice can no longer be delayed.”
“It is no secret that St. Maarten does not comply with the provisions laid out in the European Convention [on Human Rights – Ed.] and we are all aware of the different reports that paint a rather grim picture of what is taking place in Pointe Blanche. Government can no longer afford to sit by and not act on the calls of the Inmates Association and it is high time to stop talking and start acting,” Brooks said.