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Dear Editor,

It is with joy and profound gratitude that I acknowledge former Gov. Togiola Tulafono for appointing me to serve on his Parole Board in 2012 and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for allowing me to serve on his until last week.

Be it as it may on my appointment, I believe I have served the interest of the people of American Samoa to the best of my ability.

The experience alone has confirmed the horrendous crimes committed by sadistic sexual and incestuous  predators, lawless induced crimes from greed, alcohol and substance abuse, and reckless white collar criminal activities.

We, the Board Members, have witnessed the prevalence and sophisticated  methods used to traffic drugs into the country and the increase of domestic violence. Worst of all are the increase of sex offenders who wouldn't have stopped the sexual rape of children until they were caught and prosecuted.

My only concern then, was "will the community be safe when a person is paroled?”

As a parole board member, our reality is eventually the inmate will come out after serving their time.

For the safety of our community, what are we doing about it?

These are my own personal thoughts prompted through my observations from serving on the board.

I recognize a serious enough need for the Dept. Human Social Services to step up to the plate to assist a very serious ongoing issue with the inmates. The need for Rehabilitation efforts.

I also offer a few suggestions with the following:

1- Need for transitioning programs to help inmates re-enter society

2 - I hear loose talk on family reunification, but I do not believe there is a coordinated attempt by professionals from DHSS, NGOs and faith-based to help families receive hard core criminals.

2 - Need certified and credible counselors for sex offenders.

3 - Need ongoing counseling by credentialed and certified counselors or social workers. (Counselors are needed while the inmates are incarcerated, not after they are released)

4 - With public knowledge and testimonies of drug trafficking within TCF, there is a need for monthly or quarterly drug testing.

5 - No inmate or those out on parole, requesting for a PARDON or PAROLE hearing, is to approach the Board unless drug tested within 2-3 wks prior. The inmate may or may not choose to submit to a drug test. But unless drug tested, they forfeit their rights for a hearing.

6 - Overcrowding and lack of funding to perform drug testing is not the Board’s problem to resolve. It is the Territory’s responsibility to find solutions to secure TCF with this ongoing issue.

7 - This is the only Governor’s high risk, unemployed, appointed board that doesn't receive a stipend for their time or safety. I sincerely hope they will be considered in the CJP budget in the future.

The reality of our role as Parole Board members, no matter what we decide or collectively agree upon, the Governor makes the final decisions for Pardon Hearings and, the majority rules on Parole Board decisions.

I have had the rare honor to proudly serve with men of integrity and whose respected service to our country were undisputed, before they were appointed to serve on the Parole Board. They also are deep rooted men of faith.

Chairman Father Vaiula Iulio,  retired US Marine Corps HC Tauaifaiva Suiaunoa  and retired US Army, HC Uso Lagoo.

We feared God, understood the politics and we didn't defer to it. We served our people. Thank you for your wisdom, support, guidance and leadership.

To our supporting staff Mrs. Divine Faleniko and Mr. Mitchel Veavea, thank you for keeping up with our demands. You have been serving at the cutting edge of a new dimension of your work as officers of the Parole Board.

To be replaced by the current TCF pastor Rev. Faafetai Fuimaono, Rev. Sam Tinae and the spouse of Rev. Elder Saifoloi Mina, is a privilege.

As for me, I serve at Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga's leisure and am proud to have been given the opportunity to serve him with honor, integrity and transparency.

To God be the glory to be of service for American Samoa.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

RET. US Army

Victim advocate