Justice Nelson calls for more programs to identify at-risk children, to keep them out of prison


Supreme Court Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson says prison is the last resort when it comes to juvenile delinquents. 

And has commended the Ministry of Police and Prisons’ “plans” to build a new Juvenile Centre at Tanumalala. He said the move is receiving the support of the new Police Commissioner, Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo. 

The comments by Justice Nelson follow a site visit at the Tanumalala Prisons last Friday. 

Nelson who is also a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child says the installation of a new Library at the Prison courtesy of SSAB and the British High Commission is also beneficial to children serving their terms for burglary and other offenses. 

However, there is still a requirement for more programs to identify at-risk children and keep them out of prison. 

“As Prison is always a measure of last resort.”

Last month, Deputy Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Keti confirmed the Ministry is looking for funding for the construction of a dedicated juvenile prison at Tanumalala but not within the same parameters of the current prison site.

The comments from Papalii follow the assessment conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman which highlighted the recurring issue of overcrowding in cell blocks not meeting social distancing requirements.

The juveniles were initially held at the $9.6 million detention center at  Oloamanu, however, they were transferred to the Tanumalala in 2019. 

In 2020 the conditions for juveniles at Samoa’s Tanumalala prison were described as criminal by Justice Nelson. 

Vui also said the youth looked like ”caged animals” at the Tanumalala facility. The criticism was contained in an email to District, Supreme, and Lands and Titles Court judges.

This followed a judicial visit of the facilities by Justice Vui, District Court Judge Talasa Lumepa Atoa Sa’aga, and other officials. 

Vui said at that time they were horrified to note the conditions in which children were being kept following a recent police decision to turn the Olomanu Rehab Facility at Mulifanua into a Prison farm manned by adult prisoners.