Prison "train" official in new Penal Code

The amendment of the Penal Code now includes amongst others the statutory regulation of the so-called ‘train’.

This ‘train’ means that one can legally make place for new prisoners if the prison is full. The period of limitation for murder is no longer determined at eighteen years, in other words, one could still be prosecuted after that period.

The aforementioned appeared from a presentation by Professor Hans de Doelder for the (new) States members during a Central Committee meeting last week. The intention is that this parliament eventually will approve the new code. The latter contains 696 articles of which the Professor presented the most radical ones.

The front door of the prison must remain open of course, but the law does not regulate the backdoor now, and sometimes room has to be made because a correctional center with 600 prisoners could become full. With an article that is statutory regulated, there is no discussion possible on who does or doesn’t qualify for the train and the politics’ involvement is no longer required.

Test for life imprisonment
Furthermore, a periodic test is included for prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Based on the law, after twenty years the judges will rule whether continuation is necessary, whereby the position of the victim and the recidivism is taken into consideration. The pardon remains, but an attempt was made to remove this from the immediate political sphere as well. Fact is that more and more people are sentenced to life imprisonment on Curaçao. That means a whole life to those who were sentenced to this punishment at a young age. According to the committee that had drawn up the amendment, after twenty years one should consider if it is necessary to commute a sentence. The death penalty has not been included in view of the European Treaty for the Human Rights that resist this legally. “We are simply not allowed to include this.”

The conditional release has been simplified considerably in the new code. The core is that everyone has to serve two thirds of the imposed punishment. In other words, if someone is sentenced to nine years imprisonment, he/she will serve six years. “From an international point of view, a sentence of nine years imprisonment is a long time,” De Doelder adds. “In many countries, such as the US, a prisoner will only serve one-tenth of the punishment. This explains why some imposed punishments, such as 110 years, is so high. However, that is actually only windowdressing.”

The TBS (the detention) is also suggested in the new code. That possibility is not available now, to the disappointment of the judicial authorities as well as the Supreme Court. They recommitted a case for trial by the court because it had imposed a longer punishment for lack of TBS. Upon imposing TBS, there is no special clinic on Curaçao, such as the Mesdag Clinic in The Netherlands. However, that doesn’t mean that the level of psychiatric counseling could not take place. There are numerous intermediate forms available to Curaçao, according to De Doelder.

Murder cannot be barred. The current period of limitation is determined at eighteen years. However, with the current developments in the DNA-field and the fact that in the society the preparedness to accept that time heals all wounds has become less, the development that the media reproduce constantly, led to the removal of the period of limitation.

The maximum imprisonment sentence remains 24 years and for criminal offences with maximum life sentence (such as murder), a judge could choose to sentence 24 years for the time being. With recidivism, the punishments are increased with one third. Therefore, if an offence carries a maximum 24-year jail sentence and the guilty person is a recidivist, the sentence will be 30 years. The maximum suspended sentence is reduced from six to four years because this is more realistic, but the maximum probation has been increased from three to ten years.

Furthermore, the community service has been included in the amendment of the new code. It is currently an exceptional condition imposed by the judge with a suspended sentence, just like the travel and area injunction.

Fines are broken down into categories in the amendment. The word Netherlands and Dutchman has been introduced, which simplifies the legal aid. “If someone is arrested here for an attack, but suspected of committing the same offence in The Netherlands, that person could be tried for both offences here.”

Juvenile law
The juvenile law has been finished better in the amended code, with a lower limit of twelve years and an upper limit of eighteen years. Many countries apply a lower limit of fourteen years or even sixteen years in order to tackle children on their criminal acts. According to the Treaty for the Rights of the Child, it is prohibited to punish sixteen and seventeen year olds according to the adult criminal law, even though it appeared that some teenagers are capable of doing the most terrible things. However, judicially, this can be explained because the Kingdom made a reservation upon signing this treaty. The conditions have been well defined though; the judge is challenged to such an extent that he/she remains within the borders of the youth circuit. The youth-TBR is new in the amendment, just like placing youngsters in a closed youth facility. That facility as such is not available yet, even though there’s a closed section next to Brasami, at the Governmental Reformatory. If necessary, the TBR could be commuted to TBS.

(Source: National Newspaper Amigoe)

7 April 2011

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