Stretched prison service requests extra transport
The Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.) has requested the use of Pacific Games vehicles to transport prisoners to and from Court to help reduce its burgeoning transportation bill.
The Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, said the prison currently has two 15-seater vans transporting prisoners from Tanumalala Prison to the Court.
“We have asked the Ministry of Finance for two [additional] vans and bus for the Pacific Games vehicles to transport the prisoners,” he said.
While there is a proposal from the Prisons Facilities Authority to have prisoners appear in Court via a video link to save transportation costs, Tialavea said that would depend on the viability of the internet connection at Tanumalala prison.
Tialavea said that previous transportation trips from the old Tafaigata Prison to the Courthouse in Apia only took up roughly one-third of the cost and that the maintenance cost for the vehicles also increased due to longer journeys.
“That’s the problem I see with the expenses – petrol and maintenance of vehicles. We knew that it was going to be expensive when we moved but we still have the $5,000 tala petrol budget for one vehicle," he said.
He said the $5,000 tala annual budget set for every Government vehicle may only cover Court transportations, not other work.
“The $5,000 tala will probably cover all the required expenses that’s if only bringing the prisoners to court, but those vans can go out to do other work during the day," he said.
“Sometimes two vans and a four-wheel vehicle with some of the police officers travelling on the double cab to follow them, probably one or two inside to make room for the other.
“In the meantime we are still bringing these prisoners by vehicles, some weeks we bring in 40 prisoners in just one day for [a Court] mention.
"We only have two 15 seater vans and we need to have four Police Officers in there. They have to make two trips each, four trips come and go."
Tialavea said having a video link would also solve the problem of prisoners arriving late to court.
“It’s still in the plans, but now it takes nearly an hour to get a prisoner to court, especially when they don’t make it in time of their mention; we can’t do that anymore," he said.
"It was good when we were at Tafaigata because of the shorter distance, now it’s four times farther.”