Unrest still ongoing in Pointe Blanche Prison

PHILIPSBURG - Police assisted Pointe Blanche Prison for a second day in a row as there was still "unrest" in the prison. A second round of cell searches was completed.
 
Police spokesman Inspector Henson confirmed that further searches had been completed, and that officers had been asked to work overtime to facilitate the assistance to the prison. Other officers had been called in to work on their days off.
 
The police assistance was based on a request from Prison Director Edward Rohan, who had received information from inside the prison on September 12 that "the other cell blocks within the facilities should be searched for more illegal weapons and drugs. If this was not done, other very serious confrontations and vicious attacks between inmates would occur," the police press release stated.
 
A large police search team including the K9 unit and members of the VKS was put together and joined the prison search team. A very thorough search took place between 10:00am and 5:00pm on Friday.
 
"During the search, numerous homemade weapons, such as cleavers, machetes, knives or shanks, cellular telephones and many other illegal items including female G-string underwear were removed from the cells. No guns or ammunition were found during this search," the police press release stated.
 
Prosecutor Karola van Nie confirmed at the time of press that the only one man who had been arrested so far was the man arrested on Thursday for possession of an illegal firearm. His initials are K.F. No one had been arrested at the time of press for assault or attempted murder.
 
When asked if there were any plans to transfer any prisoners abroad for safety reasons, Van Nie responded, "We are not in the process of making those arrangements at the moment. At this time, there is still some unrest in the prison so the priority at this time is to get things to calm down again."
The man who was said to be one of the main players in the prison disorder of Thursday was named locally as 33-year-old U.L.W., known under the nickname "Nuto."
 
Nuto is said to be a lieutenant in the Curaçao gang "No Limit Soldiers," a member of which was held responsible for the murder of politician Helmin Wiels in Curaçao. However, so far, W. has not been arrested.
 
C.R., who was badly cut with a machete during the incident on Thursday, is still in the intensive care unit in critical condition, a police press release stated.
 
The Daily Herald understands that Prison Director Edward Rohan received a threatening letter yesterday morning. Although the contents of the letter cannot be disclosed, it is understood to have contained a death threat. Rohan was not available for comment, and police spokesman Inspector Henson could not confirm nor deny that a letter had been received.
Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson said of the situation: "It is clear that the safety in the prison falls short of what is desirable, if two firearms are found inside."
 
He said that immediate measures, such as heightened controls, are ongoing. The National Detectives ("landsrecherche") have also started an investigation into how these firearms could enter the prison. "It is clear there needs to be a different system of checks to minimise the risks of illegal items entering the prison," Richardson said.
 
When asked about how the shortage of staff in the prison will be addressed, Richardson said: "The sickness percentage is high. If people are abusing the sickness benefits, measures will be taken. Their actions are at the cost of others, who do their jobs the way they should." An investigation into sickness amongst staff is also ongoing.
 
"This week, I signed off the function book for the prison," Richardson said. "The prison currently is on 50 per cent of its full strength, staff-wise. We are aiming at increasing this. However, we are short of funds. St. Maarten is in debt. We have to take into account the budget. But this is not just a problem for the prison, but also for other agencies, such as the police force."
 
The minister called the situation a big dilemma. "We are not going to be up to strength in the short term," he said. "At the moment, we are focusing on making the best out of the resources that we have. We have to improve efficiency and heighten checks. Talks will start imminently on how to achieve this."
 
Richardson said that he did not have the feeling that those in government held Prison Director Edward Rohan responsible for the ongoing situation. "Rohan cannot run the prison on his own. However, he is responsible for his staff. But Rohan has always been very clear that he has insufficient staff."
Richardson did point out that both the prison as well as the police force has grown in staff numbers and capacity since 10-10-10. "The attention has been increased and the departments have grown. However, the growth is insufficient to deal with the current threat."
 
(The Daily Herald)
 
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