Samoa police bolster Tafa'igata prison security
Samoa police bolster Tafa'igata prison security after a mass escape earlier this month.
The Samoa Ministry of Police has stepped back in at Tafa'igata prison to support the fledgling Ministry of Prison and Correction Services after a mass escape
Tafa'igata prison was controlled by the Ministry of Police, but command was shifted amid allegations of corruption to the Prisons and Correction Service when it was established last year.
Ten prisoners escaped at the start of the month after they drilled a hole through a cell wall and were caught by police two days later.
Senior police officers and one of the assistant police commissioners in the Ministry of Police have been assigned to provide security assistance following the escape.
Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says the service is still finding its feet.
AUTAGAVAIA TIPI AUTAGAVAIA: Well according to the police, the prisoners in one of the cells managed to drill a whole which enabled them to escape from the prison.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Where did they get a drill from?
ATA: Well it's not really a drill like the tool, but they way they looked at the hole, it's like they were using some kind of metal to drill that hole.
DM-C: They were on the run for two days, was it difficult for the police to gather them all back?
ATA: Well that was very amazing because they were only on the run for two days, Sunday, and then they were finally recaptured on Monday and Tuesday.
DM-C: At the moment, the Police are providing temporary assistance for prison security, why has that been put in place?
ATA: Well, according to the police spokesman, the commissioner, and the assistant commissioner, and most of the 50 officers of the Tafa'igata prison are very new to the job. Now the police commissioner has offered the commissioner of prisons, the assistance of the police who had experience all these years when the prison was under the Ministry of Police, of how to look after and provide security for the Tafa'igata prison. The main problem there, which was also raised in the commission of inquiry last year, there is no gate to surround the whole compound of the Tafa'igata prison. But that is something that the government is looking at now, because the recommendation from that commission of inquiry is a need for that prison to have a security fence.
DM-C: So once you get out of the building, there's not a lot stopping you from going further and escaping.
ATA: Yes, absolutely, once you are out of the building, the prisoners are free to run away, because especially when they are taken to the plantations to do their normal daily work routine, a number of officers are there to look after and provide security, but they only have two eyes, and once they're not doing their job properly it will link to the escape of prisoners. But it's not a new problem, It's a very old problem at the Tafa'igata prison, but at the time of the prison under the Ministry of Police, even though there were escapees, but they were well managed by the police.
DM-C: Has there ever been this number of people escaping from the prison before?
ATA: Oh yes. the last big mass prison break, was four or five years ago, when all the prisoners in the morning, came out, left the prison, walked down to the main road, caught the bus, and they all came down to town to voice their anger to the government of how they are treated at the Tafa'igata prison.
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