Latest escape raises hope for a new prison facility
Deputy Police Commissioner Leseiau Laumoli is hopeful a new prison facility will be built by next year, one that will offer more security features to keep prisoners from escaping.
Leseiau was responding to Samoa News queries about an incident this past weekend where an inmate at the Tafuna Correctional Facility escaped from custody and was later apprehended by police at a nearby nightclub.
According to DPS Commissioner William Haleck, inmate Joseph Mamona escaped through the roof of his cell after head count. Mamona allegedly climbed the fence surrounding the jail where he was picked up by his girlfriend Annastasia Toilolo, who is being charged with aiding and abetting.
The couple headed straight for a bar, where they were both arrested.
When asked about the incident, Leseiau replied that for the time being, they are limited in what they can do, as the “prison facility is so old and run down,” making it easy for prisoners to escape.
He said the TCF has been around “for years” and “there is nothing we can do about it.” According to Leseiau, they have been rallying for a new prison facility “for the past eight years, since the last administration” and still, to this day, “nothing has been done.”
The deputy commissioner said there have been talks between DPS and the Governor’s Office about building a new prison and Governor Lolo M. Moliga “is in agreement that this is something that needs to be done.”
Currently, the US Department of Interior, Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Program has approved $2.6 million to construct a new two-story building to house male inmates at the TCF compound in Tafuna. The project is to replace some of the old existing structures and to address the overcrowded conditions at the TCF.
During his confirmation hearing before the House of Representatives earlier this year, Haleck told lawmakers that his "number one priority" during his tenure as head of DPS will be the construction of a new prison, saying that while people incarcerated at TCF are lawbreakers, that does not mean they have to be treated like animals.
According to Haleck, there are too many prisoners and not enough space at TCF to accommodate them. “Prisoners should be treated with respect,” he said. “We locked them up, and we are responsible for taking care of them."
According to Leseiau, Mamona will be charged with escape but Samoa News understands he will also be facing charges of public peace disturbance and resisting arrest, after he became verbal and “tumultuous” when police arrested him in the nightclub parking lot over the weekend.
As for the TCF guards who were working the night Mamona escaped, Leseiau said there will be an internal investigation.
When asked if he believed the cops “looked the other way” and allowed Mamona to just “walk out,” Leseiau replied, “not in this case.”
(Currently, one of the two cops who was charged with allowing inmates to leave TCF grounds to go shopping at a nearby store is on trial in the High Court. The other cop has already pled out).
Leseiau said he is keeping his fingers crossed, that a new prison facility will break ground next year. He said currently, the TCF is seriously understaffed and they are trying to hire another ten officers to help out with manpower.
“Of course, these plans are on hold for now, because of the federal shutdown,” Leseiau concluded.
To get an idea of the statistics for TCF, listed below are figures submitted by the DPS in its first quarter performance report for FY2013:
Inmates Oct Nov Dec
Average number of inmates 159 169 175
Pending cases 46 54 60
Arrests 97 83 124
Arrestees released (time expired) 73 62 120
Released on parole 0 0 0
Immigration deportation 5 3 0
Transported to court 174 150 190
Transported to Hospital 21 11 7
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