On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, the Ministry of Justice launched a book drive aimed at furnishing the prison library and providing additional educational resources for the inmates at the Point Blanche Prison and Detention Center. In an effort to expand the selection of programs and activities available to the inmates at the prison, the Honorable Minister of Justice, Ms. Anna E. Richardson, met with various entities prior to the launch of the book drive to discuss ways in which these plans can be realized. Furnishing the prison library was an essential part of the process in order to stimulate inmates in their pursuit to self-development.
With the collaborative efforts of the University of Saint Martin(USM), the book drive was launched and hosted over a two (2) week period which started on May 18, 2021 and ended on June 1,, 2021. As a means to motivate the inmates, a survey was conducted to identify what their educational interests are and the genres of books that appeal to them most. The genres identified as a result of the survey included amongst other types were poetry, fiction, science non-fiction and history. The public was encouraged to support the development and growth of the inmates by donating at least (1) one used or gently used book to replenish the library with quality literature.
Minister Richardson stated that when the book drive was launched, she had hoped for a large community involvement and support. After seeing the results, she expressed how pleased she is to see those hopes came to fruition. “It’s an amazing feeling to see our community come out and show their support to achieve this goal meant to benefit the inmates at the Point Blanche Prison and Detention Center. The support of our community over these past two weeks will provide positive opportunities for so many of the inmates”, said the minister.
The book drive was concluded on June 1, 2021 in which over 300 books were collected from donations by the community. The donations covered various genres that were of interest to the inmates including a variety of other genres.
“It is always an honor and pleasure for us to participate in these types of initiatives. We believe that education and access to literature is a human right. If we think of Malcom X, Nelson Mandela and many other heroes who spent a considerable amount of time in prison, we can recall that they did a lot of reading. We were also very happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Justice, and we continue to applaud their efforts.,” said Dr. Carmona Báez, the President of the University of St. Martin (USM).
Having been the drop-off point for the book drive, the Management team of the USM was pleased to present the book collection to Minister Richardson along with the Acting Director of the Prison, Mr. Aartwichgt Bell and member of the Management Team at the Prison; Mr. Steven Carty, who expressed their gratitude to the community for making such a donation.
“On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, I would like to extend a special thank you to the USM for their partnership in this initiative. We were fortunate to have the USM respond quickly to our request for using their institute as the designated drop-off point, allowing us the means to move forward with the book drive. I would also like to thank the people of Sint Maarten for showing your support and contributing to this success. Our goal is not just to fill the shelves of the prison library, but to also provide more opportunities that inmates can make use of to continue developing themselves and sharpen their skills that they will be able to use in the future”, stated Minister Richardson.
Consideration for different types of development programs are currently in the execution phase. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice will be carrying out a needs assessment to determine the next steps in being able to effectively offer the GED course at the prison, while also assessing proposals for the implementation of classes and other courses.