Government considers work/release for prisoners

A work release programme is in the pipeline for inmates in Samoa, says the Minister of Prison and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Tialavea said the issue has been discussed amongst the stakeholders and it’s something the government is seriously looking at. 

“It will allow certain inmates who are sufficiently trusted or can be sufficiently monitored, to leave the confinement of prison to work at a place of employment and return to the prison when their shift is completed.

“There are numerous benefits from this programme. This will allow gradual reintegration of inmates back into the community, they will be gainfully employed they can save some money and it’s mainly for rehabilitation and then reintegration into society,” said Tialavea. 

However one major hiccup is the lack of legislation that would allow this type of programme to be implemented. 

“There is no law which legally allows inmates to be released so that is something we have to work on,” he said. 

“This work release programme was developed in New Zealand as well as American Samoa and other countries around the world and I don’t see why we can’t have it here.

“This is a form of rehabilitation for the inmates. 

“We are looking at allowing them to leave the prison at 6am and return back to prison at 6pm,” he said. “This not only benefits the inmate, but also the prison, because we are looking at gaining some revenue from this. 

“The inmate is allowed to work, and on pay day, he or she gets 50% of the wages and the prison gets the other 50%. “The funds will be additional income and it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.” 

The Minister made it clear they will not just allow any inmate on the work release programme. 

“An inmate must meet established criteria in order to be considered for work placement. The inmate must have a clean disciplinary report and their crime must also be classified as one for community custody. In addition, the inmate must be trustworthy. 

“Yes this is a risk that we will take each day but that’s how things work. Decisions are risks and risks are a must - not only for the good of the programme and the inmates but also the Prison Service,” said Tialavea.

In overseas countries which have incorporated this programme, although community work would be too mild a sentence for crimes of great magnitude, the programme can be included as part of the overall package of convict rehabilitation and restoration. 

The appeal of community work/release lies in the greater public support it gets and also from the fact that such a programme does not impinge on human rights considerations and the basic dignity of the sentenced individual, while at the same time guaranteeing the safety and protection of the civil society. These are some of the strengths of community work programmes.

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