In the Netherlands, prison and detention conditions generally met international standards. Authorities permitted visits by independent human rights observers. In the three Caribbean territories, prison conditions remained substandard in a number of respects and were sometimes a threat to health.
Physical Conditions: In the Netherlands, as of September 2011, 11,550 adults were in detention, and approximately 6 percent of them were women. These figures excluded 2,170 persons undergoing treatment at forensic psychiatric centers and approximately 1,100 persons held in alien detention. The daily average in 2011 was 600 juveniles in detention. The occupancy rate in prisons was approximately 90 percent. The capacity of prisons and detention centers was 12,700 for adults and 790 for juveniles. In 2011 a total of 39 persons died in penitentiary institutions, including 15 suicides.
In Aruba, as of September, 235 persons, approximately 9 percent of them women, were in detention. In August prisoners in Aruba brought suit against the management of the Aruba Correctional Institute (KIA), complaining of understaffing, lack of hygiene, inadequacy of meaningful daily activities for prisoners, and a lack of maintenance in general. For example, they asserted rainwater entered their cells, creating dampness, which led to illness. The plaintiffs were successful in trial court; the court of appeal ruled in their favor only on the rainwater problem and gave authorities six months to correct the situation. The same court permitted authorities to hold three persons in one cell provided the cell was used only for sleeping.
As of November, 180 persons were in detention in Sint Maarten. Of these, 137 were detained at the Point Blanche Prison and 39 at the police station in Simpson Bay. Approximately 2 percent of them were women; the occupancy rate in Sint Maarten was 100 percent. Since there were no separate facilities for juveniles, authorities held them with adults, whether or not they were sentenced as adults. In April inmates at the Simpson Bay police substation rebelled, breaking glass and tables and fighting with guards. Prisoners complained of a lack of medical attention, inadequate sanitation, and what they described as unprofessional behavior by guards. Authorities used pepper spray to restore order.
Inmates also complained during the year about defective toilets in the cells, the unhygienic state of the wash basins, and mildew in the areas where food was prepared. Prison personnel and members of the prison’s supervisory committee confirmed the validity of such complaints.
In March two Dutch experts released a report describing similar conditions on three Caribbean territories during 2010-11. The experts were following up earlier reports by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) that indicated serious problems. In June the Sint Maarten Inmates Association demanded improvement in inmates’ living conditions and in the availability of health care at the Pointe Blanche Prison. They based their demands in part on two court orders dating from 2007 requiring authorities to renovate the prison. However, there were reports that authorities did not implement the renovations, even though funds were allocated.
In Curacao, 440 persons were in detention, with women comprising 8 percent of the prison population. The occupancy rate was approximately 62 percent. The Dutch experts reported that in 2011 the cells at the Rio Canario police detention facility were unsuitable for habitation because of a permanent stench.
Throughout the kingdom, prisoners had access to potable water.
Understaffing, especially at top management and middle management levels, worsened, and a planned renovation of the Point Blanche Prison facilities had not begun by year’s end.
In Aruba, there were personnel shortages in the women’s section of the KIA prison, as well as instances of mistreatment of inmates by guards and of prisoner-on-prisoner violence.
In February police intervened in a prisoner protest at the KIA prison during which one prisoner was injured and had to be hospitalized. An investigation by the Aruba Public Prosecutor’ s Office determined that police officers followed standard operational procedures and did not use excessive force. In January one KIA prison inmate stabbed another. The victim was hospitalized.
In their report the Dutch experts stated that in 2011 hygiene at the Point Blanche Prison in Sint Maarten deteriorated compared to earlier visits. Staffing remained insufficient. The experts also evaluated the Philipsburg police station, where they found that detainees, especially foreigners, remained in police cells too long, were given insufficient exposure to fresh air, did not have medical examinations, and did not have adequate access to legal support. In June prisoners at Pointe Blanche staged a demonstration to complain of mistreatment by prison authorities, discrimination, unhygienic conditions, and other problems. Understaffing worsened during the year. The experts asserted that the prison director sought to dismantle the inmates association. However, the association continued to operate and to organize demonstrations in support of prisoners during the year.
The experts’ report on conditions in Curacao’s facilities described persisting personnel problems, including high absenteeism, corruption, and understaffing at the Center for Detention and Correction (SDKK). The center’s supervisory committee, which hears prisoners’ complaints, also expressed the suspicion of large-scale staff corruption. A prisoner was shot and killed at the SDKK in July. Police arrested two fellow inmates and confiscated a firearm.
Administration: Throughout the kingdom, authorities monitored prison and detention center conditions. In Curacao, the Dutch experts reported deficiencies in recordkeeping that impeded their efforts to monitor penal facilities there.
In the Netherlands, electronic house arrest was commonly used for less serious offenses; other forms of alternative punishment included fines and community service. Authorities in Sint Maarten have the option of imposing community service and fines as punishment for nonviolent offenders, and they made use of this option during the year. In Aruba authorities employed alternative forms of punishment, such as fines, community service, or mandatory courses on subjects such as anger management. In Curacao there was a small-scale program to place selected individuals under house arrest and monitor them electronically.
In the Netherlands, prisoners could submit complaints without censorship through three channels: to the prison supervisory committee, to the penitentiary institution’s official who decides on the placement of prisoners, or to the prison system’s complaint commission. The Caribbean territories also all had supervisory committees to receive prisoner complaints. Throughout the kingdom authorities permitted prisoners religious observance and allowed them to receive visitors.
Monitoring: The kingdom governments permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, such as human rights groups, the media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as by international bodies such as the CPT. During the year the CPT released its report on a 2011 visit to a number of police facilities, detention centers, and prisons in the Netherlands as well as to Tilburg Prison, a facility for Belgian prisoners located on Dutch territory and largely staffed by Dutch personnel. A CPT inspector was appointed to report to the Aruban justice and education minister concerning detention conditions in the KIA prison. Two CPT experts also continued to report annually to the Aruban governor regarding progress in the implementation of the measures to improve the detention conditions in Aruba in order to meet CPT standards.
Improvements: In March the Sint Maarten and Netherlands governments signed a $4.2 million contract for the renovation of facilities, including sanitation, at the Pointe Blanche Prison. In their report on Aruba, the two Dutch researchers noted that authorities permitted formation of a prisoners committee in the KIA, and during the year they added additional nurses to supplement the psychologist and four nurses hired in 2011. In Curacao, a $2.5 million renovation of the SDKK prison continued. Contractors completed construction of new entry and exit facilities and separate holding facilities for undocumented foreign nationals. Construction of a workshop for prisoner activities continued.