The Government has issued a directive to the Samoa Prison and Correction Services (S.P.C.S.) banning ineligible prisoners from the weekend parole.
This was confirmed by the Assistant Commissioner, Ulugia Niuia Aumua, during a press conference yesterday.
He said there are 260 prisoners in Tafaigata and 19 of them were eligible for weekend parole.
“Cabinet has issued a directive disallowing the release of ineligible prisoners,” he said.
Ulugia explained that under the Prison and Correction’s Act 2016, only certain inmates are allowed for the weekend parole.
“Initially the prisoners would be released every other weekend; however that has now changed to one weekend a month,” said Ulugia.
Earlier this month, Minister of the Ministry of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, defended the decision to release a convicted murderer to attend his matai title bestowal ceremony.
The release came at a time when members of the public were outraged over a prison break involving four other prisoners, which resulted in a woman and her children being attacked at Ululoloa.
One of the prisoners, Uili Manuleleua, remains at large.
When concerns from members of the public about the release of Tagaloasa were put to the Minister, he downplayed them, saying the prisoner had shown enough proof that he has changed his ways.
“Filipaina is a low risk prisoner,” he said. “We believe he has very minimal chances of reoffending.”
The Samoa Observer put it to Tialavea that the Prison’s new Act, signed into law in 2016, indicates that those who are convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual connection, rape, incest, burglary and robbery are not eligible for special release, holiday release and weekend release.
But Tialavea was adamant the prisoner in question posed no risk to the community.
“The release depends on the condition of the prisoner, good behavior and low risk (of reoffending),” he said.
“We only release the prisoners with special conditions, meaning they are at low risk of reoffending."
“For Filipaina, he has been before the Parole Board five times already and he will appear again next month. He is a low risk prisoner.”
The Minister did not say what clause under the Prisons Act he was referring to.
The release of prisoners into the community has been a controversial and sensitive issue in Samoa for years.
Last year, Supreme Court Justice, Lei’ataualesa Darryl Clarke, openly criticized S.P.C.S. over the “unlawful release” of inmates.
At the time, he threatened to hold the Prison’s Commissioner “in contempt of Court if this continues to happen”.
Justice Lei’ataualesa’s comments were made during the case of a convicted murderer who was released less than three years after his sentence.
Lilo Lilo was convicted in October 2013. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he is not eligible for parole until 2023.
But that was not the case.
When Lilo was released on weekend parole, he was rearrested and charged with possession of marijuana.
Back in Court, Lilo pleaded not guilty to the drug charge. A hearing on the matter was held and he was found guilty. This was when Justice Lei’ataualesa found that he was not supposed to have been released at all.
Inmates who serve life imprisonment are eligible for parole upon serving 10 years.