Minister says Prison needs more Officers
Sixty Prisons and Corrections officers look after more than 300 prisoners in Tafaigata.
But there are not enough, says Minister for Prisoners and Rehabilitation Service, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.
Tialavea, who is also the Minister for Revenue, was addressing the question on frequent escapes made by inmates at Tafaigata and whether the guards are carrying out their full responsibilities.
“If I tell you that they have been doing their job 100 per cent, then I would be lying,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“Our guards inside the prison is only 60, so it’s very hard to look after the prisoners. That’s why we are depending on the police to recapture the prisoners.”
Since he took over his portfolio in 2016, there were 600 inmates which has now dropped to more than 300, but “the number is still too many for us to take care of”, he said.
“We have to be proactive in looking after the prisoners. We can’t do what Australia or the American Government do; they spend more money in looking after the prisoners then the ordinary citizens.”
“There’s no way in this world that the Samoa prison will be like Australia, and New Zealand, we don’t have the funds. Otherwise all our funds will go to prison and we can’t take care of our citizens.”
Tialavea explained the some of the 60 guards escort prisoners to Court, guard the gates leaving “not enough guards in prison”.
“The new prison (Tanumalala) will solve this problem – that does not mean it will solve running away – because the new prison is really safe, there are two fences four meters high you have to climb, and inside the prison, it’s already been locked.”
“But as I said, because we are going to take them outside to work at the plantation, and we have to so we can sustain our food at the plantation – that’s why I said they can escape during that time, hopefully that doesn’t happen.”
Tialavea said the management needs to be proactive, by running the prison like a family unit or village, rather than just allowing inmates to watch television.
“There are a lot of programmes that help these prisoners from the church and organisations. The library is OK for prisoners who want to go in and use them. But going to the library is up to the individual, and if you go to the library, you take another police with you to the library.”
He hopes that by the next budget in June, there would be funding to increase the number of Prisons and Corrections officers in prison.
“Budget is likely to increase for the new prison because of petrol and the place is too far, officers have to sleep over and there needs to be accommodation for them.”
Government spends approximately $2-3 million for the maintenance of the prisons and the welfare of the inmates in Savaii and Tafaigata, with food amounting to about $300,000 annually, according to the Minister.
“That’s why we need to sustain ourselves because it’s not enough to feed our prisoners. We have 400 acres in Savai’i and the food there is enough to feed Tanumalala and Savai’i as well where there are about 40 prisoners.”