Management problem, not prison
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi says management issues within the prison was the reason behind the Monday mass prison breakout and not the new multimillion tala Tanumalala Prison.
Speaking live on the 2 AP radio, the Prime Minister said this is the reason behind the subsequent action taken by Government to move the Samoa Prisons and Correctional Services (S.P.C.S.) back under the Samoa Police Services (S.P.S.).
The prison break occurred after the inmates allegedly ambushed prison guards during Monday evening's master call in the high risk cell block which holds 50 inmates.
Tuilaepa says the S.P.S. has the manpower and sufficient Police officer trainings to uphold the security of the correctional facility.
Tanumalala Prison has the capacity to hold over 400 prisoners, including those in custody.
“The only reason why these break outs are possible is because there is a problem in those in charge, but not a problem with the prison,” he said.
The day following the mass prison breakout, then S.P.C.S. Commissioner, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein tendered his resignation.
And at the same time, Government announced the merging of the two authorities under the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil.
“This reflects that we are nowhere near putting them separate as modern day changes permit, where they are separated and to each do their own thing,” the Prime Minister added.
Tuilaepa assured that the Police will now enter prison management with weapons to ensure their safety, though he did not specify which types of weapons.
Samoa’s incentives to inspire good behavior by inmates was also mentioned by the Prime MInister during his interview with 2 AP.
Samoa is the only country that gives its prisoners chances to be released out into society on good behavior when in jail, despite concerns by neighbouring countries that such practices are stupid, he said.
“But this is a thought provoking way for the prisoners to have them change their ways, in order to be let out to spend the weekends or Sundays with their families and back when it is nearing time for their release,” Tuilaepa said.
“The spirit behind letting them off early is to have them become reborn with changed behavior and feelings of regret for what you have done, because it is a waste of life to be suffering in prison while they have parents, families, especially children if any to care for.”
For this reason, Tuilaepa said it is crucial for prisoners to think ahead and comply with their sentences instead of causing trouble as it is the only way to ensure an early release.
“For those in the prison, do not think lightly of escaping as it is useless, the only thing you get is more days to sit in the prison,” he said.
Tuilaepa commended the move by the female inmates, saying when the prisoners opened the female cell block, none of them attempted to run.