Hardcore prisoners who were convicted for murder, rape or robbery can leave the Tafa’igata prison under a “special release” to attend important family events.
This is according to Minister of Prison and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, who told the Samoa Observer that prisoners serving time for murder, rape or robbery are not eligible for the weekend or holiday parole, but can leave the prison to join their families at special occasions if given the special release.
“We are now releasing prisoners who meet all the requirements and this is only for special requests, this is different from the weekend and holiday parole,” he said.
Tialavea explained that under the new Prison’s Act, which was signed into law in 2016, those convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual connection, rape, incest, burglary and robbery are not eligible for special release, holiday release and weekend release.
“However, this law is not applicable to special request. Inmates who are convicted of the said crimes, will not be allowed out on holiday and weekend release. But they can be released on special release where they are escorted by a prison guard."
“And that is what we have been doing lately, when a request comes in for an inmate to be released for a funeral, birthday, wedding or any significant family event, we make sure the family understands the risks and the prisoner knows the rules of his special release. But these same prisoners are not eligible for the holiday and weekend release,” he said.
The Minister said under the current law, the Police Commissioner has the authority to release any inmate using a warrant.
Last year, Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke criticised the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Service (S.P.C.S.) over the “unlawful release” of inmates and threatened to hold the prison’s commissioner in contempt if the practice continued.
Tialavea said he believes that the weekend and holiday release of prisoners is a rehabilitation process for them.
“Let’s say if an inmate is incarcerated for 10 years without any release, and upon release, he or she will be lost. It’s like you left a dark room that you’ve been sitting in for 10 years, they are ready to see the outside world again, because the inmate has no idea what’s going on.”