Alan Ah Mu
APIA: FRIDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2013: The number of persons placed in custody blew out so much start of this year Tafaigata Prison staff contacted the Commissioner of Police for help.
“It was almost 200,” Senior Sergeant Kerisiano Lale told the Commission of Inquiry into Tafaigata Prison this morning.
Senior Sergeant Lale is acting second in command of the prison.
It was the holiday period and the courts were not available to offer a solution.
So the Police Commissioner and the courts administration arranged for selected “custodies” to be released to await their next court appearance.
Another option to overcrowding is to make available a cell for them, Senior Sergeant Lale said.
Custodies are sheltered in three rooms designed to hold 15 but end up with 26 occupants, he said.
Evidence from Police prior to today said custodies have increased weekly at least in the last three years.
“There is one solution: more custodial rooms,” Commission Chairman, Maiava Iulai Toma, said today.
Except for when relatives or their lawyers visit custodies remain in their rooms, said Senior Sergeant Lale.
The Courts require that they be kept safe, he said.
He said they are not prisoners and are not allocated work.
“All they do is sleep and eat.”
One defendant has been in custody since November last year.
Senior Sergeant Lale told the commission that that particular defendant has served some 20 previous terms of imprisonment and if released on bail would be hard to chase up later.
Custodies are defendants who are kept in prison to await their next day in court.
The time and day for that is determined by the schedule of the court amongst other factors.
They are allowed visitors from Monday to Saturday.
Who may visit them are authorised by Police headquarters in Apia.
They may take certain belongings with them to their rooms like watches, but not items Police deem to be life threatening.
Senior Sergeant Kerisiano Lale’s evidence was open to the public but afterwards the commission hearing became a closed door affair.
Outside six prisoners, three men and three women awaited their turn to be summoned inside to testify.