23 Aug 2002

Tonga's child prisoners jailed on a remote island

3:47 pm on 23 August 2002

Tongan authorities are sending teenager in trouble to a lonely atoll where they are forced to live by themselves, catching fish.

The independent monthly Matangi Tonga magazine says up to 50 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 are kept on 'Ata Island, an atoll an hour's boat ride from Tongatapu.

It quotes Prison Department superintendent Moleni Taufa as saying the majority of the teenagers had been sentenced to six months for breaking into houses.

He says they are supervised by a single jailer who every two weeks takes food stocks out to the island to supplement the fish which the teenagers catch.

They receive no formal education.

The magazine said the teenagers are not allowed visitors but once a month can return to Tongatapu to attend church services and visit family.

Mr Taufa says the island was not the best solution to separating teenagers from adult prisoners, but it is a first step.