Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Time to Rethink a Jail Policy

Two weeks ago, a cab driver was stabbed and robbed here in American Samoa by inmates at the Tafuna Correctional Facility. The territory's violence level is really low I'd say, but the details surrounding this story are particularly interesting nonetheless. Some (including myself) are beginning to wonder whether AS needs a total overhaul of their jail system. One small step would be to clamp down on furloughs, which seem to be handed out like candy here.

Here's what Radio New Zealand had to say about the story:

American Samoa jail inmates accused of stabbing a taxi driver
Posted at 23:00 on 24 April, 2007 UTC

Senior investigators from American Samoa’s Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Bureau have made an unannounced vist to the Tafuna Correctional Facility in connection with the stabbing of a taxi driver in Leone nearly two weeks ago.

Two inmates are considered key suspects in the stabbing and one has confessed.

According to investigators, items which were taken from the taxi driver have been found in one of the inmate’s possessions.

However there has been no record of an escape by inmates at the jail during the time of the attack.

The investigators findings have led to questions about whether actual head counts of inmates are carried out.

I think RNZ is missing something. Read the next story from Samoa News:

Probe of cabbie assault leads to shakedown at TCF - Two inmates admit their involvement, sources say
By Tau Toluono and Blue Chen-FrueanSamoa News Reporters

Two TCF inmates admitted yesterday to police their involvement in the theft and assault of a taxi driver two weeks ago in Leone, sources told the Samoa News.
The confession followed a TCF shakedown last Friday that uncovered personal belongings of the cabbie in a cell unit where the two inmates were supposed to be detained.

The taxi driver has been identified as an ASPA employee who is related to Police Commissioner Sotoa Savali.

At the center of the investigation are TCF inmates Siaulaiga Safune and Mati Kalava, who police sources say have admitted to leaving the TCF compound on the night in question. They also told investigators that going outside of TCF was nothing new.

According to sources, the two suspects told investigators that it's been a common practice for inmates to go outside of jail to visit their families and when they return they bring 'oso' with them, or food and other goodies.

Does this strike anyone as odd? It's "nothing new" for inmates to just leave the jail and come back as they please? They didn't just "escape" as RNZ implies, they left. And it's "common practice." This may remind you of a prior posting on this blog - http://potatoestopapayas.blogspot.com/search?q=jail

But it doesn't end there...

Samoa News learned that it was a confidential informant(CI) who tipped off police regarding the TCF inmates after a story about the assault was published by Samoa News last Tuesday. According to sources, the CI came across the two inmates, one of them the CI identified as someone from his village that was supposed to be in jail. The CI also told police that the two had with them car speakers.

Officers of the DPS Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (CIIB) then conducted a shakedown of the particular cellblock.

There, police found the cabbie's driver's license and his wallet, which have been seized and taken into custody as evidence. Also found were speakers and amplifiers that were taken from the taxi.

Along with the cabbie's personal belongings, police also found several other items of interest, some of which are believed to have been stolen from other victims during other possible burglaries and robberies.

They brought their goodies back to the jail! Speakers and amplifiers to boot! You mean there's no one to shake them down when they come back? These guys actually thought they could keep large items like speakers and amplifiers hidden in the jail! That either says something about their intelligence or the jail policies. I'm betting on the latter. Heck, why didn't they just bring in weapons? Then they could have really done some damage.

But then comes the outrage:

From what police were able to confiscate during the shake down, it has been determined that the Leone incident was not an isolated one, as it appears that the two culprits, along with other inmates, have made it a habit to escape the prison facility and wander around looking for unsuspecting victims, before returning to the TCF.

"Based on what we have discovered so far, we can say that it's not safe anymore, anywhere," said a DPS official. "The scariest thing of all is the fact that this isn't the first time that something like this has happened. As embarrassing as this may be, it has been uncovered and there's nothing we can do about it except let the public know."

NOTHING? How about NOT allowing prisoners to leave so often? Why can't the jail have set policies for furloughs, with permission only granted by a Justice? What about conducting regular shakedowns, ESPECIALLY after furloughs?

Based on the family relation between the victim and the police commissioner, a police officer told the Samoa News that he does not know if the attack was a way of indirectly harming Sotoa "but regardless of who the victim is, the fact is, things like this are happening, and they're happening at the hands of people who are supposed to be locked up in cells for the protection of the general public."

Finally, a police officer sees the picture. The jail needs a complete overhaul. I mean, can this seriously be happening on American soil? Granted, it's American Samoa, but my point still holds.