Thursday, July 02, 2020

PHILIPSBURG- On Friday, June 19, 2020 the Court of First Instance returned with a decision after reviewing a petition filed by 37 inmates and their attorneys against the Government of St. Maarten and the Minister of Justice. The court ruled that the claims are not admissible thereby ruling in the favor of the Government of Sint Maarten.

Although the outcome of the ruling being in the favor of Government and the monetary claims of the plaintiffs being dismissed, there is very little cause for celebration. The well-being of the inmates, staff and management are top priority for ministerRichardson and she remains committed to improving the situation at the prison. This matter continues to have her full attention. 

In response to the verdict, Minister Richardson said: “I am grateful that the court ruled in favor of Government and was able to identify that there was no basis on which the claim could succeed.  With just two months in office, my team and I are working diligently on projects and plans to ensure that the situation at our detention facilities are improved while simultaneously laying the groundwork to construct a new facility. This new facility will include consistent positive development programs aimed at rehabilitating the minds and attitudes of the inmates. With this court case now behind us, the Ministry of Justice will continue to push forward in cooperation with the Ministry of VROMI, consulting with UNOPS and with the assistance of SOAB and other technical experts to finally make strides with this very pressing matter.

The Minister of Justice has further taken note that on Monday, June 22, 2020, the Kingdom Relations Memorandum will be held in the Dutch House of Representatives by the Kingdom Relations Committee, in the presence of State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Knops, Minister of Justice and Security Grapperhausand  Minister for Legal Protection Dekker. During this meeting, reports from the Sint Maarten Progress Committee and the Law Enforcement Council are on the agenda. It is further understood that the Dutch Member of Parliament Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) will put forward motion during this consultation that involves the intervention of the Kingdom Council of Ministers in the prison system on Sint Maarten. Minister Richardson learned of this upcoming motion by way of an email sent to the Parliament of St. Maarten by the Dutch MP. 

In his email, Van Dam expressed the sentiments that many have long held, which is that the situation in the Pointe Blanche prison is deeply concerning. He acknowledges that this concern exists on both sides of the Atlantic. However, despite all of the good intentions, he notes that Sint Maarten has been unable to solve the situation on its own.  As it relates to improving the human rights situation, Van Dam is of the opinion that this cannot be put off any longer and feels the responsibility to help find a solution.

Minister Richardson says that she is open to all support aimed at improving the situation in St. Maarten’s detention facilities. Any positive contribution towards overcoming challenges that the country is facing is an opportunity to continue to move the country forward.  The Minister will be contacting her Dutch counterparts to discuss the Van Dam motion, their response to it and how the motion can complement the plans Minister Richardson has been working on since taking office.

The Minister has developed a phased approach to the prison and has consulted with different stakeholders involved. As it relates to pertinent phases in the process such as the current detention capacity, engineers within the Ministry of VROMI have drawn up preliminary plans for a temporary new facility and steps are being undertaken to have these plans executed. SOAB is putting the finishing touches on the proposal that will serve to inform all parties that will be involved in assisting St. Maarten in building a new prison facility, of the country’s vision.

Having a state of the art facility without adequate daytime activities and proper programs for detainees does not help the community and will be ineffective, as offenders do not have the opportunity to better themselves while serving their sentence. To avoid this pitfall, minister Richardson has sought input from various stakeholders such as the Foundation Judicial Institutes Sint Maarten (SJIB) to ensure that the construction of any new facility takes all factors involved with the purpose of incarcerating a person into consideration. Minister Richardson believes that it is very important to continue to involve all the relevant partners in the construction of a new prison. This collaborative approach will help to ensure that appropriate and effective steps are taken throughout the entire process.

NEW YORK (AP) — After voicing support for Woody Allen and criticizing cancel culture, Spike Lee apologized Saturday for words he said were “wrong.” In an interview Friday on the New York radio station WOR 710, Lee called Allen “a great, great filmmaker.” “This cancel thing is not just Woody. And I think that when we look back on it, (we’re) gonna see that, short of killing somebody, I don’t if you can just erase somebody like they never existed. Woody’s a friend of mine,” said Lee. “I know he’s going through it right now.”


NEW YORK (AP) — Gary Phillips, a prize-winning crime novelist from Los Angeles, grew up on TV shows that showed a world nothing like the one he lived in. “I watched them all, ‘Dragnet,’ ‘Adam 12,’ ‘The Wild, Wild West,’ ‘Mannix,’ ‘Cannon,’ ‘Peter Gunn’ reruns and on and on. Now these were white guys and they were tough but fair and even-handed,” he told The Associated Press in a recent email, referring to popular programs mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. “I remember a ‘Dragnet’ episode where tight-ass Joe Friday solved racism among black and white officers in a weekend retreat. But I was a kid growing up in South Central and even then some part of me knew a lot of this was jive. We knew the cops out of Newton and 77th Division policed the ’hood a lot different than shown on TV.”

NEW YORK (AP) — An angry and emotional Dave Chappelle spoke on the killing of George Floyd in a surprise Netflix special, saying America was being punished for its mistreatment of black men. “I don’t mean to get heavy but we got to say something,” said Chappelle, who added that America is enduring “the wrath of God” for a string of police assaults on black men. The special was released Thursday and is streaming free on Netflix’s comedy YouTube channel. It was taken from a show at an outdoor pavilion in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with about 100 attendees on June 6.

Nanci Ryder, a powerful Hollywood publicist and co-founder of BWR Public Relations who became close to such stars as Renée Zellweger and Courteney Cox, died Thursday of Lou Gehrig’s disease in Los Angeles. She was 67. Ryder was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or ALS — in 2014. The neurodegenerative disease gradually claimed her ability to walk, talk, eat and move. Her death was announced by publicist Lynda Dorf. Ryder’s clients — including Michael J. Fox, Reese Witherspoon, Viggo Mortensen and Sarah Michelle Gellar — blossomed into close friends. Zellweger thanked Ryder in her best actress acceptance speech when she won the Academy Award for “Judy” earlier this year. Witherspoon called her a “second mother.”