Two weeks ago, a story titled “Justice slams parole for career criminal” was published on the front page of your newspaper. Now the term “career criminal” is something that caught the eye.
You see when we think about the word career, all these positive images and ideas immediately spring to mind about a prosperous and bright future.
In other words, a career is something many of us encourage our young ones to pursue because we want them to be successful in life.
But it’s quite odd when someone becomes a “career criminal”, isn’t it? And yet this is exactly what Supreme Court Justice, Niava Mata Tuatagaloa, was concerned about. She was alarmed that someone who has become so good at committing heinous crime was allowed to do as he pleases.
In this case, Peika Pesa, who is also known as Peika Pesaleli, with a criminal history that dates back to 1996, was allowed out on weekend parole. Yes it means he can walk out of the gates at Tafaigata Prison and be free just like any law-abiding citizen.
The problem is that when you are someone of Peika’s ilk, he doesn’t understand the meaning of a law-abiding citizen. It is why he is called a career criminal. You see when he was out on his latest weekend parole, he just couldn’t help his nature. So he committed another crime, this time in relation to drugs and marijuana.
Back in Court, Justice Niava was not happy. She ordered lawyer, Lupematasila Iliganoa Atoa, of the Attorney General’s Office to find out what section of the law that allows a career criminal out on weekend parole.
“I’ve noticed that the there’s four pages all together that states the history of all your previous convictions,” said Justice Niava. “I’ve also noticed that the hearing that was scheduled for today (yesterday) it is from the offense that you committed on 26 December last year and yet you are serving time in prison.”
“How were you able to be allowed out of prison while you were serving time?”
This is when Pesaleli told the Court that he was on a weekend parole.
“Your Honor, I came out to spend the weekend with my family and that is why I have pleaded not guilty to the charge against me,” he said.
This infuriated Justice Niava even more.
“But what I am saying is how is that possible when you are serving time in prison,” she asks.
“Secondly, it’s the history of your previous convictions there are so many, four pages and yet you are still allowed to come out to spend the weekend with your family.”
“I see as well that you are released out on the weekend and yet you re-offend again while on bail for the weekend, and yet the Samoa Prisons is still allowing you to come out on the weekend even though they know very well that you keep on reoffending when you come out.”
“I see numerous offenses that you have committed and I have also been told by the prosecution that your sentencing term will complete in 2029.”
“What kind of person are you now? Do you not want to go back to your family or does your family no longer want you because of all the crimes that you have committed? Or is breaking the law become an addiction to you, and what about your identity?”
Justice Niava could not have said it better. In our society today, there are some people who don’t want to help themselves. The problem they make everyone else’s life miserable, which is why they don’t deserve freedom.
“There is no safety in this country and its people if this is the case, and you do not care about the safety of the people and the country as a whole,” Justice Niava said. “So whatever works the Police are doing to ensure the safety of this country, it will never work if people like you are always allowed to come out.”
We couldn’t agree more with Justice Niava.
Keep in mind that Court Judges and Justices have constantly made this point about safety and security of members of the public from prisoners who waltz out of Tafaigata’s gate at will. It wasn’t that long ago that Justice Lei’ataualesa Daryl Clarke expressed similar sentiments.
We applaud Justice Niava, Justice Leiataualesa and all the members of the Judiciary who continue to advocate for this issue.
When it comes to the issue of prisoners being given an easy pass from where they are supposed to belong, it is nothing new in Samoa. Countless letters to the editor published on the pages of this newspaper have expressed similar frustrations and fears about what could happen when these prisoners are allowed to roam freely.
Over the years, this column has strongly advocated for changes to the system.
This is because we have seen just how devastating the community has suffered as a result. Innocent women have been raped, senior citizens have been robbed, properties have been torched and broken into and the list of heinous criminal offending continues.
Why? The simple truth is that there is a reason criminals are sentenced to be locked up behind bars. They need to be taught a lesson; they need to know that when they break the law, the cost is their freedom to do what they like.
And yet in Samoa, it appears, that is the complete opposite of what’s happening.
Let’s remind everyone here and now that the idea of jail is not just to teach these folks a lesson. One of the most important elements of sending them to jail is to protect members of the public from them. Yes these people, as much as we want to reintegrate them into society, are not normal. They pose a great risk to you and me. They are criminals.
And that’s why the Police and Prisons exist. They are there to protect us from these criminals.
We’ve said this before and we will say it again today. We accept that there are many challenges for the prison authorities – especially when it comes to the state of the Tafa’igata Prison.
But even with that, how many families must continue to suffer when their homes are broken into and robbed every time these convicts are out? When will we wake up and say enough is enough?
If this continues, why do we need a justice system? Why do Judges and the Court waste their time to send prisoners to jail? Why don’t we just allow murderers, rapists, thieves and all criminals to do whatever they like?
Stay safe Samoa, God bless!