Police take action to address issues cited by Ombudsman


The Ministry of Police and Prisons has taken actions to address issues cited by the Ombudsman Office – Covid-19 Preparedness, Prevention and Control in Places of Detention Assessment Report.

Papalii Monalisa Keti in an email cited the most pressing issue is the overcrowding in cell blocks not meeting social distancing requirements. She confirmed receiving the  Ombudsman Office report which has provided their evaluation of the preparedness, prevention, and control of COVID-19 at Tanumalala Prisons.

“We note and appreciate the recommendations made in the Ombudsman report, the most pressing is the overcrowding in cell blocks not meeting social distancing requirements.

“Other recommendations are summarized below;

  • addressing anxiety and mental stress of prisoners and staff
  • delays in handling court cases of some prisoners due to court shutdown
  • lack of resources such as testing kits to conduct comprehensive surveillance for all inmates and visitors
  • ensuring that there is timely communication of information regarding plans and risks of COVID-19 in a way that is user friendly including display of flyers and messages at cell blocks entry points
  • system to gather and integrate risk perception of people in prison (especially the most vulnerable ie pregnant female, older prisoners and inmates with underlying health conditions
  • continue to provide low-risk social interactions and continued psychological support for inmates to assist with anxiety and mental stress
  • ensuring that instances of discrimination especially against inmates who test positive are adequately addressed
  • work with MJCA and AG to facilitate hearings of inmates whose cases are due for hearing.”

Papalii added their “most pressing issue is addressing overcrowding in prisons cell blocks.

“Discussions are now underway for the relocation of the female prison cell blocks from its current location inside to land outside of the current prison.

“The relocation of women prisoners will ease up overcrowding in the majority of male prisoners cell blocks by re-assigning them to the current female block.”

She said however relocation is dependent on funding and that a similar process is being implemented for the construction of a dedicated juvenile prison at Tanumalala but not within the same parameters of the current prison site.

“The Ministry has approached ADRA Samoa for funding to facilitate this project and [the] will also seek donor support to fund construction of small scale prison for women.

“But for the time being, prisoners are being re-assigned to Olomanu and Vaiaata to reduce overcrowding.

“Furthermore, we have implemented special release for prisoners who have been endorsed by the Parole Board for special release as part of their reintegration back to society.”

Adding that the Ministry of Police and Prisons will submit a proposal to the Government seeking additional funding to support additional costs to operations in the prisons, especially for purchasing COVID-19 test kits and PPEs for staff, prisoners, and visitors.

“Additional funding will also be sought to assist in the printing of flyers and messages to be displayed at cell blocks for information of prisoners.

“Furthermore, we note that some of the recommendations require long-term planning ie) and acquiring the service of a clinical psychologist to work full time in prison takes time. We have experienced this with trying to acquire a full-time doctor to provide health care services to prisoners.

“In acquiring specialized services SPPCS will need to provide a lucrative employment package.”

Adding the Ministry has been working with MJCA and the AG on facilitating bails of inmates arrested during lockdowns and this has been the practice since 2020.

“The recommendation on hearings of cases is noted, but difficult to implement in a lockdown situation due to resourcing and accessibility of witnesses to online zoom platforms.

“It would be difficult to facilitate any online hearing given the limited resources in our country and this if further hinder by lockdown requirement impose by SOE orders.”

Papalii concluded by acknowledging the work of the Ombudsman Office in providing SPPCS with recommendations that continue to assist in improving our service delivery.