Police Minister defends use of prisoners

The Minister of Police and Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, has defended using inmates for his “personal projects”.

Prisoners were sighted early in the week clearing land belonging to the Minister’s family at Falelauniu.

But Tialavea has told the Samoa Observer that he can put in a request to the Ministry of Police and Prisons for prisoners to work on personal projects.

“I am the Minister and I can request the Ministry for the prisoners to come work on my personal projects, including the clearing of [family land] in Falelauniu,” he said.

“I want to make it clear that the work done in Falelauniu this week was not conducted by the inmates, rather it was done by family members from Faleapuna.”

It is understood inmates from the Tanumalala Prison initially cleared the plot of land at Falelauniu.

Asked about the process, Tialavea said that a request is put through to the Ministry explaining the purpose of the request and it is the Ministry’s “prerogative to grant or deny.” 

He added that other organisations like the Mapufagalele have also put in requests and they have been granted by the Ministry. 

“And so you see it's not just me I pay them $200 to do a job for me and sometimes more but I follow the process in place.” 

Tialavea further reiterated the inmates in question are the ones who are seen cleaning up the town area and don’t get paid. 

“There is a budget allocated by the Ministry of Finance for the equipment and maintenance of the tools, but they don’t pay the inmates that do the cleaning all over town.”

In the past the Government offered contracts to clean the town, but they are saving money now due to inmates cleaning the town area. 

The Police Superintendent who oversees the Tanumalala Prison, Soloi Iosefa, told the Samoa Observer that the arrangement that the Minister used is not new.

“The inmates that clean around town are the ones allocated to do work for the Minister’s projects, but there is a process, an official request must be submitted.” 

In the past inmates were allowed to work on someone’s property as per request submitted to the Ministry. But that stopped in 2018 when all inmates were not allowed outside of the corrections premises, even on the weekends. 

“As indicated before, there is a process and like the Mapufagalele, the prisoners are allowed to conduct work for the Minister and in doing that we are not in violation of any laws, because its allowed,” said Soloi. 

The prisoners were sent to mow and clean up Mapufagalele’s yard for free with Tialavea adding that it is the Government’s contribution to the Sisters of the Poor who run the aged care facility.

“Mapufagalele don’t pay for the services and this has saved them money. The prisoners do not require a whole day to mow and sweep the field, just a couple of hours,” he said.

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