Juveniles "like caged animals” at Tanumalala Prison

Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson has lamented the conditions children are being held at the Tanumalala Prison, saying the juveniles looked like “caged animals.”  

The criticism was contained in an internal email to all the Judges for the District Court, Supreme Court and the Lands and Titles Court obtained by the Samoa Observer. 

Dated 8 September 2020, Justice Vui was seeking assistance from the Judges for more information about personal hygiene packs that were delivered to the prison several days after a judicial site visit. 

Justice Vui was accompanied by District Court Judge Talasa Lumepa Atoa Sa'aga, a member of the Youth Court during the visit. 

“We were horrified to note the conditions in which children are now being kept following a recent Police decision to turn the Olomanu Rehab Facility at Mulifanua into a Prison farm manned by adult prisoners,” he said. 

“I believe this decision has the blessing of the Minister of Police and possibly the Cabinet.

“Your Honours, these children are kept in heavily barred cells and sleep on the concrete floor without falas or even a blanket which at this time of year at that altitude is criminal. We saw one sheet being shared by a cell of 6 boys, wet washing dripping onto their floor as there is nowhere else to hang it because they are not allowed out of their cells at any time,”

The Samoa Observer contacted the Minister of Police and Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, who declined to comment but instead scheduled an interview for Monday. 

“Thanks for giving the opportunity to comment, but I am waiting on the Police Commissioner and his management to look into the allegations levelled by the Judge. We will meet in due time,” said the Minister. 

Justice Vui in his email said the juveniles “looked like caged animals which are about what they are at present, a far cry from the open roomy conditions of Olomanu now being enjoyed by the adults”. 

“We have resolved to take action to change this and an immediate need is to provide them with a personal hygiene pack of 1 x towel, 1 x fala, 1 x ieafu, etc. per prisoner.” 

Justice Vui said Court Officials accompanying them saw firsthand where the juveniles were housed. 

“They saw for themselves the horrendous conditions suggested the best way is to collect funds to purchase what is required as we do not want to accumulate an unduly large assortment of donated materials,” he said. 

“If we give them that, chances are they will end up also being distributed to the adult prisoners.” 

Another issue that Justice Vui underscored was the halting of rehabilitation programmes for juvenile and adult prisons. 

“The adults are not our immediate concern although it is frightening to learn that [rehabilitation] and educational [or] vocational [programmes] for all prisoners both children and adult, including those newly paroled by the Parole Board were earlier this year canceled until further notice due to the COVID-19, state of emergency.

“What the [states of emergencies] have to do with rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners is anyone's guess.”

Justice Vui hopes that Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagalo Keli, as Chair of the Parole Board, will be able to address the rehabilitation issues. 


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