Govt. considers ban
The Ministry of Prison and Correction Services (M.P.C.S) is contemplating a blanket ban on weekend parole.
This is part of a move by the government to curb the sharp rise in the crime rate involving prisoners who are allowed back into the community.
The decision was confirmed by the Ministry’s Spokesperson, Sagaga Galu Frost, who said this is part of a number of plans in the pipeline to keep Samoa safe from prisoners.
“A final decision has yet to be made but I can confirm that it is being considered very carefully,” he said. “This parole is very rare. Only in Samoa where we allow prisoners on the weekend parole but if you look at other countries, prisoners there don’t have that privilege.
“There are some inmates who are using the opportunity wisely but others just seem like they don’t really care.”
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Sagaga said the Ministry – as well as the Police – are concerned about the rising number of crimes being committed by prisoners who are granted weekend paroles. This includes rape cases, robberies and other heinous offenses that have been reported in the media.
In one case, a notorious prison escapee broke into a hotel in the middle of the night, robbed a couple and raped a female while her partner looked on. In other cases, prisoners have been linked to multiple thefts, robberies and the harassment of innocent citizens.
Asked why the parole is necessary, Sagaga said the idea was initially to reward good behavior for prisoners every two weeks– based on mutual trust.
But this trust has been abused and misused several times and now it is time to put a stop to it, he said.
The Spokesperson said M.P.C.S and the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O) are working to solve the problem.
“Prisoner Lauititi was one of the problems because of what he did,” said Sagaga. “When he was on the loose, he attacked a businessman and these are the behaviors that we are trying to stop.”
According to the official, since problems started surfacing, the Ministry has not been resting on its laurels in its efforts to find a solution. As part of this, a majority of inmates are no longer eligible for weekend parole, or any other form of special release.
And while a decision on the blanket ban is yet to be made, Sagaga said prisoners convicted for sexual matters, theft and burglary are no longer allowed on the weekend parole.
“From our experience, we have seen that those who are convicted for theft, sexual crimes and other offences are likely to reoffend,” said Sagaga. “So we have made a decision and since then, I have not heard any more complaints from the outside about problems caused by prisoners who are granted parole.”
Sagaga added that the parole is still being exercised but very few prisoners are now granted it, under very strict circumstances.
“It was hard at first because we had some families complain but I think people are used to it now,” he said.
“Some prisoners also understand why we are doing this. We are also want to protect them from re-offending so that they can serve their time and go back to their families.”
Speaking of families, Sagaga identified another problem.
“What we’ve found is that those prisoners who keep on re-offending are the ones who are no longer accepted back to their families and their villages and they have no other place to go,” he said.
“Because they feel that they have no where else to go, the easiest thing for them to do is re-offend so that the prison becomes their home.”
The Prison Spokesperson said this is a bigger problem that will require the community to work together to resolve.