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Prison chaplain claims all faith-based programs ended at Juvenile Detention Center

jeff@samoanews.com

A prison ministry made up of volunteers here in the territory is no longer allowed inside the Juvenile Detention Center at the Tafuna Correctional Facility to minister to the young inmates, according to Chaplain Moru Mane Tuiagamoa of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry American Samoa. In response, the Boys and Girls Club of American Samoa executive director Tupua Roy Fua says its an unfortunate misunderstanding, while the Warden of Tafuna Correctional Facility, Lumana’i Maifea, expressed surprise at the ministry’s demise.

According to the chaplain, the ministry is an organization known worldwide, whose mission is to provide spiritually mature, equipped and motivated Christian Chaplains to serve in correctional facilities nationally and internationally.

Their purpose is to meet the spiritual needs of both inmates and staff through ministry that includes evangelism, discipleship and pastoral attention, while facilitating other religious faiths within the guidelines established by law and the individual correctional facility.

“After we visited the kids at the juvenile detention center, we were told by the workers at the center that all faith-based programs are now terminated — and that was the order from the higher ups, they told us,” said Tuiagamoa.

He said he was told it was because of the First Lady’s Ta’ita’itama Program and the Boys and Girls Club of American Samoa, along with Social Services, who will now be doing what the ministries had been doing.

“We are volunteering our time free of charge, and are not costing the tax payers any money. We spend our own money because we care about these young kids. The last time we were there, there were about eleven kids,” he said.

“They are going to spend all of this money, while we are doing it out of the goodness of our hearts,” Tuiagamoa said.

“Where is the justification? The reason is I believe, is because they are seeking more grants. They are trying to discourage us from doing this free service of helping the young people in need. If they can do this for free with no grants, let’s see them try to volunteer their time,” he said.

He went on to say that he is a retired Marine and there are other retirees who are veterans that are committed to this cause as well. He is asking those who wish to get involved and start a petition to contact him at 688-1770.

Samoa News contacted the warden at the Tafuna Correctional Facility, Lumana’i Maifea, who said he did not give such an order and acted surprised when questioned about it. He stated that he did not stop the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry from conducting their program. 

Responding to the pastor’s comments, the the Boys and Girls Club of American SamoaExecutive Director Tupua Roy Fua told Samoa News via email, they have partnered with the Criminal Justice Planning Agency, Department of Education, Human and Social Services and District Court of American Samoa to implement a Community School Project. The comprehensive project combines education, enrichment sessions, behavioral health services and access to job skills development and job training. 

Qualified instructors from the BGCAS in partnership with ASCC GEAR UP and DOE teach Math, English, P.E./Health Science, History and Samoan Language; core content areas required for a high school diploma or GED.

The program also provides ‘life skills training’ by certified facilitators in “Tackling Tough Skills”, an evidence based program developed by the University of Missouri. Tackling Tough Skills helps hard-to-reach youth learn soft skills needed to reenter the community and successfully maintain employment, once placed at a job site.

It runs daily at the Juvenile Detention Facility from 8:00 am to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It ensures that juvenile offenders detained at the facility acquire the skills needed to transition back to mainstream classrooms and/or to a workplace giving them a second chance in life. 

The program is designed to work with the Department of Public Safety, Juvenile Detention and Parole Board to provide options for detailed youth by allowing for “alternative education” as part of the transition process. 

The program schedule and course offering was reviewed and approved by all department and agency leaders working together on this project in June 2012.  

According to the BGCAS Executive Director,“It is our firm belief that a healthy education must include a balance of academic, emotional, social and spiritual guidance. We have and will always be a strong supporter of the work of the faith-based ministry. This misunderstanding is quite unfortunate.”

BACKGROUND

According to the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry website www.goodnewsjail.org, in February of 2002, Dr. Harry Fletcher, Vice-President of International Ministry for Good News, met with then Pastor Moru Mane here in American Samoa. At that time Pastor Moru was volunteering in the ministry of Good News and was interested in establishing a ministry in American Samoa. Moru was appointed as the first Good News Chaplain here in American Samoa by Dr. Fletcher in June of 2003.

The First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono is currently off-island and was not available for comment. However, in a story reported by Samoa News last week, during the opening ceremony of the the Boys and Girls Club of American Samoa new club house, the concept of a “Community School” was noted by Mrs. Tulafono. In particular was its partnership with specific agencies, Dept. of Public Safety and the Court system to focus on juveniles that are in danger of ‘falling through the cracks’.



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