And here is the news …

What do you want first? 

The good news or the bad news?

The good news you say?

The numbers of criminals who are reoffending, are down, according to the Assistant Commissioner for Prisons and Correction Services, Ulugia Sauafea Niuia Aumua.

Now he hasn’t told us how far down they are, it may be a huge number or just one or two but whatever it is, it’s encouraging.

Like most people we suspect,  we would like more statistics and even some research done, perhaps by a student or an academic from the National University of Samoa to crunch the figures and then to find out the whys and wherefores of this good news.

It may help us with understanding and future planning. 

Certainly having visited the prison, the living quarters seen from outside alone should be enough of a deterrent in most cases. The boredom and despair of the inmates is just about visible as they bunch up to stare out of one small cell window.  

And now for the bad news.

The numbers of our young people who are incarcerated, is increasing.

So much so, the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Prisons and Correction Services are conducting awareness programmes at high schools and colleges in the hopes of educating students about the reality of being jailed if they break the law.

Again, details and numbers are sketchy apart from the fact that there are 35 juveniles (under 18) at Olomanu Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.

And given that except in serious cases, our judges do try to consider youth as a mitigating circumstance and look at other punishments instead of jail, 35 of our youth is far too many.

And again, having visited the Olomanu Centre shortly after it was built in 2006 it is not a place where we want our young people to be.

Aside from working in the wonderful plantation they had there, playing some limited sport and receiving religious counselling from nearby pastors, there was nothing in the way of acquiring skills at that time.

Perhaps it has changed.

I would hope so, as it was so far inland from the main road, that many families were unable to visit and some of those boys who were around 18 years of age were very young in so many ways.

Apart from being in Olomanu together, they also had something else in common. Most were illiterate – in both languages.

Yes they could speak in Samoan, but many could not read in their mother tongue and as for English, forget it.

At that time, there were no educational programmes for them to address these problems, but perhaps things have changed from how it was 11 years ago.

Fast forward to today, it is great to see the two Ministries taking a pro-active approach and visiting schools as a preventative measure rather than waiting for them to be counselled in jail

Perhaps they could consider extending the programme to reach out to many of our at-risk youth who are no longer in school and without jobs who are even more vulnerable than the lucky ones receiving an education.

And a word for the government? 


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