In the Netherlands, prison and detention conditions generally met international standards; in Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten, prison conditions remained substandard in some respects. The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers but none occurred during the year.
In the Netherlands, as of September 2009, 11,682 adults were in detention, approximately 7 percent of them women. These figures exclude 2,000 persons undergoing treatment at Forensic Psychiatric Centers and about 1,500 persons held in alien detention. In 2009 a daily average of 713 juveniles were in detention. The occupancy rate in prisons was approximately 86 percent. The capacity of prisons and detention centers was 12,600 for adults and 1,310 for juveniles. No figures were available on the prevalence of deaths of detainees in prisons or pretrial detention centers.
As of October, 246 persons, approximately 6 percent of them women, were in detention in Aruba; the occupancy rate was an estimated 65 percent.
In St. Maarten 138 persons were in detention, approximately 3 percent of them women; the occupancy rate was 96 percent. In Curacao, 502 persons were in detention, approximately 5 percent of them women; the occupancy rate was about 71 percent.
In all territories prisoners had access to potable water. A “supervisory committee” was available to hear the complaints of any prisoner. There were no reports of inadequate recordkeeping or that female prisoners were treated worse than males. In the Netherlands, alternative punishments such as fines, community service, or electronic house arrest were common for less serious offenses. There was no available information on alternative sentencing possibilities in Aruba. In Curacao there was a small-scale program to place selected individuals under house arrest and monitor them electronically. Authorities in St. Maarten had the option of imposing community service and fines as punishment for nonviolent offenders, and they made use of this option during the year.
In all territories authorities monitored prison and detention center conditions. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to receive visitors. Prisoners were permitted religious observance. They could submit complaints to a supervisory committee, to the penitentiary institution’s official who decides on the placement of prisoners, or to the prison system’s complaint commission. In many cases complainants had the option to appeal. Authorities addressed complaints adequately with respect for due process of law.
Authorities permitted visits by independent human rights observers. No visits occurred during the year.
In Curacao and St. Maarten, authorities did not increase prison capacity sufficiently to allow separate facilities for juvenile offenders. Judges may sentence juveniles under the age of 16 who have committed serious offenses to prisons where they serve time together with adults. However, there was one cell block at the prison in Curacao reserved for youth offenders.
In St. Maarten, inmates struck briefly in April over a Public Prosecutor’s Office decision to send two inmates to prison in Bonaire.
In 2009 the UN Human Rights Committee cited reports describing prison conditions in Bon Futuro Prison and Bonaire Remand Prison as “extremely harsh.” However, improvements continued as a result of a 2008 allocation of eight million euros ($10 million) by the Netherlands government. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s (CPT’s) 2009 report cited improvements in the prisons in Curacao and St. Maarten, including the opening of a youth section in St. Maarten. Authorities completed the renovation of the Bonaire detention center in 2009 in accordance with CPT standards. A $2 million renovation of Bon Futuro Prison continued during the year. Curacao authorities completed work on a construction and renovation project for separate holding facilities for undocumented foreign nationals in Curacao. Also in Curacao construction of new entry and exit facilities was nearing completion. Construction of a workshop for prisoner activities continued, and some equipment from the Netherlands was already on site. Staffing at the Curacao prison remained insufficient. The prison director in St. Maarten indicated that prison staffing there was sufficient.
In February inmates from the KIA Prison in Aruba sued the prison authorities because of overcrowding. The Aruba Court of First Instance ruled in favor of 150 prisoners, but the judge gave prison management six months to improve the health and hygiene deficiencies that led to prisoner unrest.
The Aruba Public Prosecutor’s Office announced an investigation into possible use of excessive violence by police during their intervention in a prisoners’ protest in February. One prisoner was injured and taken to the hospital.
In June the St. Maarten Inmates Association demanded improvement in inmates’ living conditions and the availability of health care. They based their demands in part on two court orders dating from 2007 requiring authorities to renovate the prison at Pointe Blanche. Nonetheless, there were reports that authorities did not implement the renovations, even though funds were allocated. In April the government allocated funds to finance staff recruitment at the prison. Construction was completed during the year on separate holding facilities for undocumented foreign nationals.
The Dutch government agreed to finance staff recruitment to strengthen St. Maarten’s government. New personnel were being hired to fill vacancies in the Police Force, Detectives Bureau, Pointe Blanche Prison, and Immigration Services among others.