By THEO YASAUSE
THERE are three experiences that are worth taken notice of to understand life when you visit three specific locations – the prison, the hospital, and the cemetery.
First at the prison you will understand that freedom is the most precious thing.
The second place is at the hospital you will understand that nothing is more significant and beautiful than one’s health.
Thirdly, at the cemetery you will realise that life is just temporary and is worth nothing, the ground we walk today will be your roof tomorrow.
To enjoy life you need to guide your freedom and your health as some of the most precious items you have been entrusted with under heaven.
The focus of this feature is the experience inside Bomana prison by some of our up and coming leaders from Don Bosco Technical Institute in the most recent past.
Before we enter the experience, the Papua New Guinea Correctional Services has an important policy approach in building stakeholders awareness and provide critical information under its Inmate Out-mate Policy Approach.
This policy approach is implemented as part of the Prison Rehabilitation and Training Programme.
Under the programme, a two way collaborative work with stakeholders have been established where prisoners are allowed to go out to carry out outreach and law and order awareness in communities and churches and in return also receive visitors into the prison to share and to care as part of the environment and life of incarceration to dissuade the public to enter this arena.
This is an essential pillar of the prisons work output under the Law and Justice Sector in addressing law and order issues in our communities.
It is therefore everyone’s responsibility to secure a safe and secure society. Prisoners are well placed to recount their firsthand experience to help facilitate the law and order discourse.
The parole and license process should be invoked to make it a condition for release to enable ex-inmates to help spread the work on law and order awareness.
The real threats to society are not the ones held inside the prison; however, the treat to law and order lays outside the prison with the majority- the public at large.
The Don Bosco Students
Within that sphere, the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Port Moresby made arrangements with the Bomana Prison, Minimum Security Unit annually. The students who are taking various specialised trade skills in this exchange programme are from the auto-mechanic, refrigeration, electrical, electronics, computer and information technology, welding and fabrication where students from various technical trade schools and specialities converge into the prison to observe and work inside the prison for a couple of hours. These students see for themselves first hand, observe, hear and actually work inside the prison to experience what is like to be in prison. The students’ and inmates recollections, experiences and exchanges are captured below.
A day in Prison
Many stories have been told about life inside the prison. We hear stories about people in prison and think of them as being murderers, rapists, drug edicts, robbers and many such labels and descriptions such as the media, books we read and hear portrays them to be. A visit inside the prison can change that perception and labelling. It can be a life changing experience and a challenge.
Life inside a prison can defy conventional wisdom as inmates remain in prison 24 hours a day and have no assignments outside the prison. Except for the low risks inmate who have been put through a systems of classifications where the inmates are assessed on their overall attitude and behaviour while in prison. The inmate’s movements from one area of the prison to another are restricted.
Armed Correctional Services man the security towers and perimeter fencing to stop any escape attempts. For the MSU, the situation is different, as many are low risks prisoners and can move about freely provided they provide a system of reporting for various work party assignments.
It is noted however, that the guards who come into contact with the prisoners on regular and frequent basis do not carry any form of firearms. The reason being that it could be stolen or may end up in the wrong hands and pose a security treat.
The question many may ask is why do people go into prison? People go into prison for a variety of reasons. Some break laws by actually committing a crime, others go inside as a result of system failures while many more are innocent but are still inside the prison. Some enter prison intentionally by engaging in criminal behaviour so they could find some place to reside where there is free food and clothing. Many are also not actual criminals or have any intentions of going into prison but end up anyway. Many end up in prison because of lack of economic opportunities to help meet their daily needs and wants.
To further explain, the why question is a matter for another time and space. However, the graph below shows you the typical causes of crime in the last 10 years.
Similarly, others ask, who are [the type of] people held inside the prison? The answer varies but for a Correctional Officer (CS Officer), the answer would be prisoners who get convicted by the Courts. They have no reason to believe that the situation could be different for each prisoner. Once you a prisoner your title remains and classed as a prisoner. That said, there are varying social status and class of prisoners held in prison. Some are lawyers, teachers, politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats, real estate brokers, policemen, warder, soldiers, accountants, sports personalities, settlement dwellers, pick-pocketers, bag snatchers, thieves and robbers, village court officials, etc to name a few.
Bottom line is anyone can become a victim and end up in a prison either by choice or accident. Many people avoid getting caught breaking the law and are still out there in our society.
The surprising thing all of the class of people in prison are a group of about 20 juvenile young and aspiring youths, some as young as eight-year- old in recent past to 17-years-old. They are full of energy and vitality but remain inside the prison with limited hope and vision. Some barely completing their primary schools and others in high and secondary schools with all their dreams shattered for a better life. The age ranges on average between 17 and 55-year-old and covers various categories of crime.
Regardless of whether you are young or old there is a place for you in the prison. You just have to watch your step each day. Unemployed youths represent the major part of the inmates held inside the Bomana Prison.
A quick survey of available records inside the Bomana prison indicate crimes of fraud and misappropriation as being on the rise to replace the notorious ones such as robbery and stealing, homicide, sexual assault and drugs. The table below illustrate this case.
- Theo Yasause is an inmate and the Chairman of the Peace and reconciliation Committee at the Bomana Prison