The increasing number of young people in our prisons is a concern that needs to be addressed immediately.
Statistics show that there is a total of 365 prisoners in Tafaigata and Vaia’ata prisons and 35 young people are at the Olomanu Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.
But what’s alarming, is that the Assistant Commissioner for Prisons and Correction Services, Ulugia Sauafea Niuia Aumua says the number of young people incarcerated, is increasing.
Ulugia was speaking to teachers and students during an awareness workshop at Leifiifi College organised by the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Prisons and Correction Services on Thursday.
And because of the high rate of young people involved in school brawls, theft, burglaries and other violent crimes, both ministries are targeting the young students to raise awareness on the consequences of such crimes.
Ulugia said, “The students’ need to understand that there are consequences to their actions if they do break the law.
“There are some situations where they will end up in prison and therefore it is waste of time for them.”
‘Protecting our future’ is the idea behind the awareness programme.
“Once a youth enters the prison doors, it actually stops them from achieving their goals in life because they are under the prison’s care for months or even years,” Ulugia said.
Issues such as the use of electronic gadgets and social media were raised during the awareness programme.
“One teacher made a point that it is about time the government implemented a law to control the use of cell phones among the students,” Ulugia added.
Ulugia said it was the first time both ministries were carrying out rehabilitation programmes for young offenders.
“It took us about two years to set our foundation and get our rehabilitation programme in place and this is the first time we are conducting it.
“And it is very hard at the moment to determine the success of our programme because we started just last year. However what I can say is that there are fewer reoffenders, so that is a good thing.
“We hope that at the end of the awareness programme, people, especially these children will understand that entering Tafaigata is not a good place,” Ulugia added.
Principal of Leifiifi College, Sefuiva Malaea Lauano said: “Cell phones are useful but it is how the child uses it that has impact. Students seem to spend a lot of time on their phones rather than concentrating on school work.
“I do support the view that there should be a law in place to control the use of cell phones by students during school hours.”
Tafaigata prison houses 249 males and 22 females and Vaiaata in Savaii houses 43 prisoners and has 16 outposts.
The awareness programme will be held at Avele College next week.
The Olomanu Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre was set up by the government in December, 2006 with the aim of providing a constructive environment through education for young offenders and to divert them away from criminal activities.
In an interview with the Police Commissioner at the time, he said the inmates are trained in the centre in many fields such as gardening and bible study and participate in a range of sporting activities.