Police to reconstruct cell blocks into jail cells at the $18 million tala prison


The failed attempt by inmates to escape from prison on Tuesday has called for the Ministry of Police and Prisons to revisit the need to reconstruct cell blocks into jail cells at the $18 million tala Tanumalala Prison.

The Tanumalala prison was officially opened in 2019.

At the moment the cell blocks houses up to 50 prisoners, and several Correction Officers stationed at the cell doors can be “easily overpowered” by the Prisoners, like what the Police saw firsthand on Tuesday.

Deputy Police Commissioner, Leiataualesa Samuelu Afamasaga, said their plan, in the long run, is to reconstruct the blocks into jail cells to minimise the number of prisoners in each cell.

The concept behind the cell blocks is to allow prisoners to congregate like a community and operates as a “family” where there are “father figures” in each cell block.

“But for now we have reduced the number of prisoners in each cell block ranging between 42-47.

“And we have reassigned low-risk inmates to Oloamanu [at Mulifanua] and Vaia’ata in [Savaii],” after Tuesday’s events, whereas more than 50 prisoners broke out of three cell blocks.

The Tanumalala has more than 400 inmates, including, Juvenile delinquents; women, and men but in separate wings.

In an interview with Radio Polynesia, Leiataualesa who oversees the Prison says he wouldn’t be surprised if there is another attempt for prisoners to escape from the Tanumalala prison next month.

“But we will be ready,” said Leiataua.

The prisoners wanted to go home to visit their families in the midst of the COVID community cases. Its been a month since the Tanumalala Prison has been on lockdown, in line with the Government’s measures to slow the rapid spread of the Community cases, which as of Tuesday has reached 1,439.

The Deputy Police Commissioner said that 89 percent of prisoners have all been fully vaccinated and awaiting their booster shots, but the new inmates, need to be vaccinated.

Adding they will make sure the inmates will get their necessary vaccine.