By THEO YASAUSE
Many prisoners are viewed as individuals who take calculated risks to offend or likely to offend.
Many think that when one is in prison, he or she is a real criminal living and working alongside real hardcore seasoned offenders. However, the results are mixed and require careful analysis.
It should be noted that there are people who have been sent to prison because of reasons other than doing actual crimes. They could be bystanders, or were in the vicinity of the crime being committed, or associated with the offender in some way or another.
Serious mistakes and decisions can also be made because as human-beings we are all not always perfect including those judges that are placed in a position to sentence people to prison.
There are those on remand and awaiting their court appearance. This group of people can wait from three months to 10 years or even more to have their cases resolved.
And with those who have cases dealt with some are discharged and others are found guilty and stay in prisons serving various prison terms ranging from months or years to life and even death. That is how the system works in this country.
Status and categories of people in prison
Many people come in and out of prison for various reasons. In the past (1970-1990s) prison was for the worst type serial offenders of the underworld. It was a place for gangs such as 585, 108, Koboni, etc and prestige and rivalry between these gangs saw them entering prison.
At the time of writing this article, the prison culture at least for Bomana Correctional Institution has changed dramatically. The people who are now coming into prison are not only serial offenders but pastors, lawyers, policemen, politicians, doctors, nurses, accountants, public servants and many more.
When I looked into the age categories, the reality is mind boggling; age does not matter as any age group can end up here and that can range from an eight-year-old juvenile to a 75-year-old man.
It was also noticed that there is a dramatic shift in offences allegedly being committed and reasons for coming into prison.
People with high social status in terms of education and standing are now coming into prison. For most of these people, the alleged crimes are stealing, fraud, and official corruption.
Many of these cases involved money. Alleged crimes involving money are on the rise. Today, there are lot more remandees and convicted prisoners doing time for stealing and fraud than for any other offence.
This is not to say other offenses are not committed; there is consistency in offences such as homicide, armed robbery and sexual crimes.
It is noted that for men, armed robbery and homicide cases have sent a good number to prison. For female inmates, most of their offenses are homicide-related and are based on family violence orchestrated by their male partners.
One of the striking things noticed in prison is this: As people age in prison, behaviour and attitude changes. There is need for a specific behavioural study undertaken to capture the innate underpinnings for this hypothesis.
HDI business class education system
The low security unit at Bomana houses 20 life sentence prisoners. People say that when sentenced to life – that is it, you will forever stay in prison for the rest of your life with no time limit.
Your being in prison, as the term suggests, is for life. The inmates serve time at the mercy of the Queen of Papua New Guinea, Queen Elizabeth the II.
For those who are sentenced to a term of years at least they would know their due date of release from prison.
However, it is set precedent that after 10 years of continuous serving, the Queen can release a prisoner serving a life sentence under parole or on licence with conditions.
Many have served more than 15 years in prison for various alleged crimes, ranging from armed robbery to homicide. Many of them have testified of being in the wrong company which has led to them to being sentenced to life imprisonment – either by association or being in the vicinity of the crime scene. All of them have been rehabilitated and have been engaged in many inmate-outmate programmes of the prison.
The HDI business class education and skills development training has built and harnessed their capacity to change the world around them. The skills development practical training had built values that bring discipline and responsibility to lead and command change.
Meet some of these inmates.
Sam Tom, now 40, entered the prison in Alotau, aged 26 and was transferred to Bomana due to his Supreme Court appeal and has been here since his appeal was dismissed.
He came into the prison for an allegation of armed robbery leading to death. His case is unique as he had returned from a trip from Australia and was home on the day, the alleged crime occurred. He did not take part but someone allegedly dubbed him as one who was part of a group of boys.
Because of that he was convicted and sentenced along with two others. He was sentenced under Section 7 of the Criminal Code Act for being an accomplice, being in the company of a group of men. Sam was said to be with the group, and was therefore sentenced to life – not because he pulled the trigger or stole any money.
At the prison, he has undertaken many training and rehabilitation programmes. He is now a certified welder and has been engaged in many projects both inside and outside the prison.
Some of the major projects he has worked on are Evadana Primary School fencing, Moroguina Rural lock-up and Kerepia Barracks fencing, among others. He has also carried out crime prevention awareness in NCD, Central and Gulf for the last 15 years. Sam is a talented musician and produced an album with CHM Super sound including a public awareness album for crime prevention.
After going through the HDI business class capacity building training, Sam Tom is prepared and very much equipped. He now sees the world around him differently, he desires to contribute meaningfully.
Alois Erebebe was a major in the PNG Defence Force. He came into the prison for alleged murder with his colleague Taros Togote. They have been in Bomana for the last 19 years. They have served their time well in prison and undertaken many training and rehabilitation programmes.
They have skills in agriculture and livestock. Many people would know that these two gentlemen have led many public awareness programmes in many parts of Port Moresby, Central and Gulf provinces including schools in NCD.
The HDI training has totally revolutionised their thinking process. He has the skills and is ready to use those skills in a business venture that would change his people’s living standard. His colleague Taros Togote is a full time cleaner and assistant at the Correctional Services headquarters. Both are ready to go back into their community and serve them in whatever capacity required of them.
Frank Yalikiti, now aged 34, came in for armed robbery and murder. At age 15 and now served 18 years of his sentence. He was in the wrong company and was apprehended.
Although he did not kill the person for which he was convicted, he however was with a group of boys that held up a family. He was found guilty by association because he was in the company of youths and got blamed as well.
He has served and undertaken training and rehabilitation including the HDI programme. He is the youngest in the family and his parents are getting older by the day. He says he is ready to go back into the community.
He will not be fooled into being in the company of people with evil motives as he has learnt his lesson the hard way. HDI has made him see the world differently and to start a business venture to help other youths like him.
Laxi Lalatute is now age 38. He was 23 years old when he was sentenced for armed robbery and murder. He has changed his ways in the prison. He attends the SDA fellowship and had attended many training and rehabilitation programmes. Laxi is now a certified welder. He has undertaken work as part of the community service in Abau, Rigo and at Bomana.
The HDI business training made him see the business world differently. He does not want to be a slave working for others. He intends to start a venture to take advantage of the booming construction industry sector and employ other youths.
Charles Kauna – was jailed at age 17 in 1997. He completed Grade 9 and was going to start Grade 10 in 1996. However, during the holidays he followed a group of boys and ended up in a fight that led to the death of another person. Charles was also in the company of a group of youths and was accused and sentenced. He is a very devoted Christian and had been one of the leaders in the prison who are dedicated to providing public awareness on crime and its effects.
HDI training has made him see the world differently and he intends to also start a business venture to help other youths. Besides, his focus is on helping youths know about the effects of crime to themselves, their family and community.
Tony Penduo Hahahori is referred to as Kakaruk man. All the poultry that come out of Bomana is under his care. Tony was transferred in from Wewak and has served 18 years in prison. He plans to take the HDI course in its next intake in September 2018.
Many of the prisoners serving life sentences have been in the prison and served more than 15 years. Most are now undertaking HDI Training on personal viability and game of money. HDI has put smiles on their faces.
Indeed if the world cares, we can all make it a better place. We care as well. We all can and make our country a better place for everyone.
Request for Queen’s mercy
The HDI business class education has prepared them well. Many of the life year prisoners are fully rehabilitated and are ready for their re-integration.
They are hoping that the Queen of England as Head of State can have mercy on them to have them released possibly in September 2018 during the Independence anniversary.
These gentlemen are well-behaved and some of the exemplary prisoners that are needed in our communities. The HDI business class education has tremendously uplifted their focus to be a difference in their respective communities. They call on the authorities to give them a chance to prove themselves.
Using their knowledge and skills from the HDI business class education system, they stand to contribute to the national economy with the projected employment of 200 other Papua New Guineans and an injection of K5.6 million into the economy in five years collectively.
At Level 5, the numbers indicated above for employment and financial contribution would have doubled.
The inmates have all asked for the Queen to give them that opportunity by releasing them with condition to work on the HDI programme up to level 6 and 7.
- The author is an inmate at a the low security unit at Bomana and a coaching staff under the Human Development Institute (HDI) rehabilitation training programme.