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Cabinet reinstates Prisons Commissioner

The Commissioner of the Samoa Prisons and Correction Services (S.P.C.S.) , Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, has been reinstated to his position.

The decision was made by Cabinet, the Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, confirmed.

The decision to allow Taitosaua to continue in the role comes after a five-month suspension, pending the investigation. 

Tialavea said a special Cabinet meeting last Friday decided to lift the Prisons Commissioner's suspension, and directed that he resumes work next Monday.

Attempts to get a comment from Taitosaua were unsuccessful. 

Two separate investigations were launched in October last year after two notorious prisoners escaped the newly constructed $18.2 million Tanumalala Prison. 

One of the investigations was in relation to the Prison's Management and the other was done by the Ombudsman’s Office. 

Prisoner Lauititi Tualima and Aniseko Vaelei fled the Tanumalala prison and were later captured on the same week by Police. 

 “The decision was based on recommendation to reinstate the Commissioner,” said Tialavea. 

“It was clear [from the investigation] the prison guard was solely responsible for opening the cell for the prisoners and led to their escape. 

“We still don’t know the reason why he [prison guard] did it but it was clear that the prison was understaffed on that shift.” 

Asked about the outcome of the investigation into the Prison's Management, the Minister said the Management had no control of the prison guards action. 

“The Management includes me as the Minister and the buck starts from me,” he said. "It doesn’t matter how many trainings are done [for staff] if the guard opened the cell we had no control over that.”

The Minister stressed that with the new anti-climb fence being recently installed the prison is fully secure. 

He assured there will be no more break-out from the prisoners. 

In relation to the Ombudsman’s investigation, Tialavea said the report focused mainly on the reason the men broke out of prison. 

He said the report that is with the Prime Minister places emphasis on the actions of the prison guard which led to the prisoners fleeing Tanumalala prison.  

The prison guard had since been sacked and charged for the incident. 

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