Escaped detainee alerts cops to drugs at Olomanu

Police are investigating after an escaped detainee alerted them to the presence of marijuana inside the main office of the Olomanu Juvenile Detention Centre.

The existence of the contraband drugs inside the jail only came to light when a detainee broke out of jail and walked from Mulifanua to the Police outpost in Faleolo and then informed Police on Wednesday. 

The ongoing investigation was confirmed by the Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, and the Minister for Prisons and Correction Services Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, in separate interviews with Samoa Observer. 

“I can confirm the Police confiscated marijuana plants from within the main office of the Olomanu Juvenile Center and we are investigating, whether these plants were there legally or illegally,” said Fuiavaili’ili. 

The Commissioner said they have interviewed detainees and the correction officers as part of the investigation

“From there we will determine who will be charged in this matter,” he said. 

Tialavea told the Samoa Observer that an internal investigation is being carried out to determine how marijuana plants were found in the vicinity of the juvenile detention center. 

“I was informed about it last week and I paid a visit to the centre on Thursday, the day after the alleged drugs [were] found, and that is all I can say about it, as investigations are continuing," he said. 

Asked whether the Correction Officers are suspected of involvement in bringing the drugs into the centre, Tialavea declined to comment. The Minister referred queries to the Deputy Commissioner of Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.), Levaopolo Rosa Siaosi. 

The Commissioner of Police said they were looking at all aspects of the matter in their investigation.  

“There are many questions that need to be answered such as whether the plants were planted there? Was it for sale inside the centre? And was it for personal use? And we’re trying to get to the bottom of this," he said. 

The Commissioner concluded by urging the public to come forward if they become aware of the existence of any illegal drugs and tell Police. 

“I’d like to think there are no drugs within our prisons but one cannot be too certain, but if there are, please leave a tip with the police and we will take it over from there,” said the Commissioner. 

There are three prisons in the country: Tanumalala; Vaia’ata in Savai’i; and the Juvenile detention center in Olomanu. 

In May, 2019 the Deputy Commissioner Levaopolo said families of prisoners being are using food to smuggle marijuana to their relatives being kept behind bars at the time. 

The families' attempts to smuggle marijuana, to those already serving time in prison, is one reason why some prisoners are taken back to Court for possession of narcotics while serving time. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Levaopolo, said many families use food to conceal marijuana which is then smuggled into the prison.

“People have various methods like hiding it (marijuana) inside food,” said Levaopolo. 

“Others use noodle boxes to put it inside and make it look like it hasn’t been opened. And sometimes soup is being used and we feel for the families, because they have spent a lot of time cooking food and yet its not being used, but it will all be found during our inspection in front of the gates.” 

Levaopolo said smugglers were increasingly discovering creative means of smuggling in marijuana such as weaving the drugs with coconut leaves when making coconut baskets (ato faiumu). The coconut baskets have since been banned from the prison. 

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