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Deputy Commissioner laments shortage of Prison Officers

The Deputy Commissioner of the Samoa Prisons and Correction Services (S.P.C.S.), Levaopolo Rosa Siaosi, has lamented the shortage of Prison officers at Tafa’igata.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, she said there are only 68 Prison Officers to cover for nearly 400 people at the prison. The number includes prisoners and 109 detainees.

“The prison is really unsafe at the moment,” she said.

“But we are trying our best to offer the best service we can with what we’ve got for the security of the prisoners and safety of the workers.”

Levaopolo said the relocation to Tanumalala Prison is a high priority and they are hoping it would help address some of the challenges.

Levao added that the high turnover of Prison officers is due to the nature of the job. Wages is another contributing factor, she said, adding that S.P.C.S. continues to invest in the capacity building of its staff by training and up-skilling the officers.

“It’s a risky line of work here,” she said. “The new prison will provide that extra security with a 4 meter tall brick wall.”

The ongoing issue of prisoners escaping from Tafaigata point to the problems there. Just two weeks ago a group of detainees being remanded in custody attempted to escape prison.

A prison officer who responded to a call for help from inside the cell received injuries to his head and his hand. One detainee remains at large while the rest have since been taken back in the cell.

The opening of the new prison offers a glimpse of hope for Levao and her team.

“The new prison is scheduled to open in June and by then the construction of all buildings to the required standards is completed.

“About 80 percent of works for the Tanumalala prison has been completed.”

Asked if the new prison will be air conditioned, she said no.

“It’s naturally cold there so air condition is not needed,” she said.

“The prisoners do need blankets and warm clothes because the weather there is a lot cooler.

“But in terms of the security there it will certainly keep prisoners secure in their cells.”

S.P.C.S. Management is also looking at recruiting an additional 20 Prison Officers to assist with supervising the prisoners.

The entire Tanumalala project costs up to $25 million with additional funding provided by the supplementary budget to complete the project.

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