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Saturday 2 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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SAMOA – The shocking state of Samoa’s Tafa’igata Prison facilities, which is housing a growing number of prisoners, has been highlighted once more.

Concerns have been raised in a second inspection report by the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Institute released this week.

The poor conditions were highlighted in a press statement issued by the Ombudsman.

“There are issues with hygiene in cells which prisons are kept in – cells are still dirty and malodorous, toilets and showers are broken down and the kitchen is dirty with the ceiling about to collapse,” the report reads.

“More alarming is the issue of infestation in areas where food is prepared and also within the cells. It was noticed by the inspections team that there was still heavy infestation of rats and cockroaches.”

The report also points out that many of the issues regarding the conditions of accommodations have not improved.

“Substandard hygiene in the prison is of real concern because of its potential impact on the health and well being of the whole prison population.

“The quality and quantity of prison food remain major issues as noted in the initial report.

“Complaints and expressed curiosity from prisoners with reference to the proceeds from plantations and gardens was again raised during the inspections. There is still inadequate access to regular clean water for drinking and showering.”

“The issue of overcrowding still remains, with the numbers of prisoners continuing to increase which is an alarming concern.

“The classification system is yet to be implemented despite classification procedure included within the Prisons and Corrections Regulation.

“This contributes to many of the issues evident during the inspections which includes the issue of young prisoners and young persons in custodies (awaiting court hearing) who are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty are being kept in cells in the same state similar to those that is used to keep prisoners.

“The cells are not fit to house prisoners and it is very wrong to routinely detain persons who have yet to be tried in these conditions.”

The report says that according to Samoa Prisons Correctional Services (SPCS), it is difficult to implement the classification system because there are no proper facilities and there is a distinct lack of recourses.

Unless a new prison under construction is established soon the issues raised will continue to exist.

“The issues raised in our inspections report shows that Samoa Prisons and Correction Services management can only do so much with the resources they have,” Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma is quoted as saying.

“Such, there needs to be more financial and human recourses allocated to the SPCS in order for it to effectively operate and secure the prison.

“While the Office of the Ombudsman understands government’s focus to be on the building of the new prison facility, it must not in effect be tantamount to total disregard of the current prison and its pressing problems.

“There is urgent need for a block of appropriate cells to house individuals who are seen, for security or other special reasons, to require greater surveillance and stricter confinement in cell accommodation different from those provided for the general prison population.”

The ombudsman added: “The authorities have long relied heavily on the matai system within the prison to maintain order and security.

“The SPCS needs to be given more resources so that they, in conjunction with the matai system, can work to ensure Tafaigata prison retains and builds on its unique way of effective inmate management which, if allowed to degenerate away, would need to be replaced by new, possibly very difficult to set up and very expensive, strategies of prisoner management and containment.” - SO