2 Oct 2013

Probe into Samoa prison reveals inmate breaches

6:10 pm on 2 October 2013

The Commission of Inquiry investigating allegations of corruption at Tafaigata Prison in Samoa has so far revealed conditions of overcrowding and inmates being sent to work to stay with some senior police officers, despite a ruling against this.

There are 350 to 360 prisoners in Tafaigata prison, with just 35 prison officers working.

Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, spoke with Leilani Momoisea to round up what's been learnt so far in the Commission of Inquiry.

AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: In one cell for those prisoners serving sentences, there appears to be 20 prisoners in one cell. But it's now double that number, which is 40. For the security cells, it's supposed to be only 10 in 1, but it's now double that number - it's 20. So it's very overcrowded. There's a big problem now of overcrowding there. And they told the Commission of Inquiry, especially the police officers and administration of the prison, that that's their priority every day, the health of the prisoners. But looking at what they're telling the commission, it's very unhealthy.

LEILANI MOMOISEA: And also inmates being sent to work and stay with senior police officers, even though it was ruled by cabinet that this is a practise that had to stop.

ATA: The documents provided by the senior sergeant for the Commission of Inquiry, which contains a list of prisoners still working outside found out that there are still prisoners being sent to serve sentences and stay with some of the senior police officers. But the cabinet decision, it's only for the head of state, the member of the council of deputies and the minister of police. Those are the only three provided with prisoners to do works. But for the rest, it would be a 'No, no'. But now they found out there's still prisoners being sent to stay with senior police officers.

LM: How open is this in terms of the information and the evidence being brought? How much access is the media getting to this?

ATA: Well, this Commission of Inquiry compared to the Commission of Inquiry against the former police commissioner, who was alleged to be involved in the smuggling of guns from American Samoa for the police on MV Nafanua. it was very much open to the media and the public. This Commission of Inquiry at Tafaigata Prison, I would say it's not very open to the public and the media. Basically, when there are prisoners serving time in jail now going to give evidence, they are very protective of these prisoners because of the consequences if their evidence is going to be reported widely by the media.

The Commission of Inquiry has been adjourned until 15 October, and is expected to continue on for another 3 months.