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Prisoners to attend Court through video link

Prisoners could soon appear in court via video link which authorities say could save cost in terms of transportation. 

The request from the Prison Facilities Authority follows one of several issues highlighted in Detention Centre Inspection Report (D.C.I.R.) 2019 conducted by the Ombudsman’s Office.

The use of video link will save a lot of money and assist with transport issue with the Prisons Authority, the report said. 

 “This will also ease the burden on staff and resources to transport inmates to the Court House,” stated the report. 

The Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.) is currently working to fulfil the request.

More than thirty custodies, including prisoners, are transported from the new Tanumalala Prison to the Courthouse to appear for mention on Monday every week. 

There have been cases where matters for the accused are called but do not make an appearance or turn up on time. 

The former Chief Justice, Patu Tiavaasue Falefatu Sapolu, had previously raised this in Court several times – urging Police and Prison officers to communicate to save Court time. 

S.P.C.S. also noted the challenge with custody prisoners not having enough space to detain them. 

The Ombudsman’s D.C.I.R. 2019 report was conducted at the former prison at Tafaigata in May before it relocated to Tanumalala prison recently. 

“The time in which custody prisoners are kept at the centres is reliant on the Police and the Courts,” stated the report. 

"S.P.C.S. does not necessarily want to hold these people at the site for long, however it is the police’s and Courts call for when they need the accused for hearing. 

“If the Court takes 5 weeks then that is how long S.P.C.S. will keep them unless someone is bailed out. 

“This is a continuing challenge particularly Tafa’igata as it does not have adequate space and sufficient human capacity to cater for such situations.”

In the Ombudsman’s executive summary he commended S.P.C.S. for its effort to address recommendations from previous inspection reports. 

However he stated there is still a lot of work that needs to be conducted to ensure compliance and effective management of prisons in Samoa. 

S.P.C.S. was given a 'C' grade average which means that the implementation of a majority of recommendations falls within 21 per cent to 50 per cent grading. 

“This is unfortunately a concerning feature which requires urgent and priority attention in order to combat and elevate it to a higher stage,” said the Ombudsman. 

Some of the main reasons for the low grading include ignorance of national and international human rights standards applicable to work and lack of proper policies and systems in place to guide work. 

Furthermore, it stated the need to note that S.P.C.S. is a recently created independent institution with limited resources and budget.

S.P.C.S. manages three prison facilities which includes the now Tanumalala prison, the Juvenile Detention Centre at Oloamanu and the Vaia’ata prison in Savai'i. 

At the time of the inspections Tafaigata prison housed a total of 271 prisoners and custodies, Oloamanu had 42 while Vaia’ata prison had 45 inmates. 

About living conditions and hygiene, the report again raised the issue of the “appalling” living conditions at the then Tafaigata prison that was also highlighted in other reports. 

“There is still the issue of overcrowding and almost all cells have a strong odor which is not healthy for inmates,” stressed the Ombudsman. 

“It is also hot and some cells especially solitary confinement cells are filthy, all of which are inhumane.”

Prisoners at Vaiaata interviewed by the office complained about being itchy from bugs which eventually turn into boils. 

It was recommended that prisoners at Vaia’ata sleep on stable beds and that rooms to get pest control treatment to eliminate health risks to prisoners. 

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