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Senators hear long list of problems going on at TFC

The ongoing problems at the Territorial Correctional Facility fall on the shoulders of the police officers’ negligence, and not carrying out their duties as officers sworn to protect and serve the community — that was the explanation from Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Leiseau Laumoli when he appeared before Senators yesterday morning during a hearing regarding the problems encountered at TCF.

The Deputy Commissioner was accompanied by Warden Lt. Maifea Lumana’i before the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. Mauga T. Asuega.

Leiseau said that he and the Commissioner continue to remind the corrections officers of their duties, which are supposed to be carried out 24 hours a day and seven days a week. He said he advises them to be sure about the safety of the officers who work there “and also the safety of the prisoners who are placed under their supervision.”

He said the correction officers at the jail failed in carrying out their duties, which is why a laptop computer made its way into the jail. Inmates had access to the laptop, which took photos of them posing in their cells at the TCF — they were later posted on Facebook last year.

Leiseau said the investigation into this matter is almost complete, and they are hoping, with further investigation, to retrieve information from the laptop to see if the inmates have ongoing plans at the TCF.

He assured the senators that once the investigation is completed the laptop will be returned to its owners. With regards to the inmate responsible for taking the laptop into the jail, Leiseau said a report has been forwarded to the Attorney General’s office to determine what should be done regarding this issue.

The senators also heard from Warden Lumana’i, who told them that currently the jail is overcrowded. Each cell was built for two inmates, but currently they have up to six inmates in each cell which is just 4 x 8 feet.

Currently, there are eleven female inmates, and 174 male inmates.

The Warden said he’s now looking at having the inmates who have committed similar crimes be housed together; those who have committed murder stay together, while others, such as sex offenders stay together.

“Currently there are too many sex offenders in jail”, said Lumana’i.

Sen. Fuata Dr. T. I’atala asked about the “homemade brew” in the TCF, which he heard about from the media. The Warden replied that the incident occurred last year, and it goes back to the police officers not carrying out their duties, by checking on the inmates constantly.

Fuata also asked about the types of items allowed in jail for the inmates, and which items are not.

The Warden explained the inmates are allowed personal hygiene items, such as clothes, soap, toothbrush etc. The Senator asked if cell phones are allowed in prison, because he has overheard that there are many cell phones being used in jail. The Warden said phones are prohibited in jail, but it’s a big problem the TCF is still encountering.

Fuata also inquired about rehabilitation programs for the inmates who are incarcerated.

The Warden replied that there are programs available at TCF, which he is working hand in hand with the Criminal Justice System to implement, because they are funding some programs for the TCF. He cited talking in group sessions for an alcohol rehabilitation retreat and the sewing program for women by Leuga Turner. He added there are also several ministry programs, where different ministers visit the TCF each day, twice a day.

Sen Paogofie Fiaigoa asked — of the 174 inmates — how many are foreigners? The Warden responded that 85 percent of inmates are foreigners. Paogofie asked if these foreigners were returned to their home countries, would there still be a need for new buildings, adding,  “Our government is suffering because of these foreigners — there’s three meals a day and if they were returned, it would be better.”

Sen. Lualemaga Faoa noted the problems occurring at the TCF are due to the negligence of the police officers, and yet it is their duty and responsibility to make sure TCF and everyone at TCF is taken care of. Lualemaga asked the Warden and Leiseau for copies of procedures, rules and regulations under which the TCF is currently operating.

Sen. Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson told the witnesses to file a report with the Senators explaining what types of problems they are encountering —whether it’s the facilities, or the manpower. “Make a report, identify what the problems are and lay out what should be done to solve these problems” he said.

“I believe the reason behind these existing problems at the TCF is the lack of manpower” said Alo.

The Deputy Commissioner concurred with Alo’s comments. Leiseau said there is a need for new facilities, as the existing buildings are old and not in good condition.

“Commissioner Tualolo and I have sought help from the government — firstly, the location of the TCF because it’s in the middle of a residential area.” said Leiseau.

 “Secondly the road near the TCF — where the public passing by can just throw anything over the fence.”

 “Thirdly, there is the increase of inmates and not enough manpower.” Leiseau added that it’s the dishonesty of police officers that is another reason why these problems exist. “We tell them to do one thing, they turn around and do something else; we keep on reminding them that they should carry out their duties.”