Detention rate Caribbean Netherlands comparable with other small islands

The prison population rates in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are comparable with those in St. Maarten and other small islands in the Caribbean, and are a little higher than those in Curaçao and Aruba, Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur stated in a letter to the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber.

Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur.
Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur.

The prison population rate is defined as the number of prisoners held in a country or independent territory per 100,000 inhabitants. The detention rates in the Caribbean Netherlands are five times higher than in the European Netherlands, according to a report by Scientific Research and Documentation Centre WODC, the Minister wrote in the letter, which was sent last week Friday.

The research was carried out on request of the Ministry’s Directorate for Sanctions and Prevention Policy.

Previous investigations mentioned that the detention rate was eight times as high in the Caribbean Netherlands, but that figure was based on erroneous calculations, Minister van der Steur stated.

Proportionally the number of registered crimes in Bonaire, Statia and Saba is one and a half times higher than in the European Netherlands. That also goes for the number of suspects handled by the Prosecutor’s Office and for the number of cases that are presented in Court.

The cases that are handled by the Prosecutor’s Office in the Caribbean Netherlands are on average also more severe than the cases handled by the Dutch Prosecutor’s Office.

The number of violent crimes and the number of drug-related crimes are both twice as high than in the Netherlands. As a consequence, sentences are also more severe, the Minister of Security and Justice said. The number and duration of unconditional prison sentences are more than twice as high compared with the European Netherlands.

The figures on youth crime show stagnation or even a decline, while a number of experts have stated that youth crimes are an increasing nuisance. The Minister said that the Law Enforcement Council has recently commissioned an investigation into the prevention of youth crime.

In connection with the high crime rate it was noted that the three islands have two characteristics which are conducive to crime: the number of men in the so-called crime-prone age bracket are overrepresented in the Caribbean Netherlands, and supply and demand in the labour market do not match.

Minister van der Steur was cautious in his reaction to the figures. He said it was not possible to make any “firm statements” because there was a lack in “sufficiently reliable information” as the “information systems of judicial partners are not (consistently) filled with information, are not properly functioning and are not connected with each other.”

“I am aware that it has been a complex investigation for WODC due to the limited availability of quantitative and adequate data, as a result of which little hard information was found concerning the background of criminality on Bonaire, Saba and Statia. The findings in the report must therefore be interpreted with caution,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Minister said the findings in the WODC-investigation were a confirmation of the importance of the continued improvement of crimefighting in the Caribbean Netherlands.

He mentioned the construction of the new Correctional Institution Caribbean Netherlands, the subsidy to Foundation Krusada for 12 guided-living sites for shelter and reintegration of ex-convicts, structural consultations between partners in care and the judiciary in the “Safety House” in Bonaire, and a study into the feasibility of implementing juvenile criminal law as examples of recent investments.

Minister van der Steur said he would be looking into possibilities to improve the exchange of data between the various departments of the Ministry of Security and Justice. He added, however, that the local partners on the islands should be allowed sufficient time to implement policies. This, the Minister said, made him reluctant to come with new initiatives based on the conclusions in the WODC report.

The Daily Herald.

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