By MARJORIE FINKEO
A FTER 22 years in prison – the initial six in solitary confinement because he was on death row – Charles Kauno is looking forward to going home.
He wants to be with him his family again, especially to be reunited with his twin sister who he has not seen in the past 22 years.
“I left my twin sister when I went to prison when we were just 22. I will meet her again when I return home.”
Charles, 44, is from Bamba village in Talasea, West New Britain. He was pursuing a course on Agriculture at the Moramora Technical School in 1997 when he got caught up in a fight among the villagers.
“I was caught in a fight among villagers. Someone was killed and I was accused of it. Three suspects who actually killed the woman were set free.”
He unsuccessfully tried to prove his innocence in court and was convicted of murder. He was given the death penalty.
“I was lost for words, confused, sitting there without any relatives by my side inside a courtroom waiting for the warders to take me to prison.”
He spent three months at Lakiemata before being transferred to the Maximum Security Unit at Bomana in Port Moresby. Because of the severity of the sentence, Charles was put in solitary confinement in a completely dark cell where inmates are sedated to sleep. They are awake for only seven hours a day. No sunlight.
The only people allowed to visit him are a lawyer, doctor and pastor.
“ I left my twin sister when I went to prison when we were just 22. I will finally meet her again when I return home.”
Kauno has five siblings. He and his twin sister are the second eldest. Their mum died when they were 10.
“I never wanted to serve my term in Lakiemata prison because parents especially mothers come to visit their sons. I was young and it was heartbreaking to see mothers knowing that mine is not alive to come and visit me.”
He requested in 1998 to be moved to the main prison in Bomana where inmates can take part in rehabilitation programmes. His application was rejected.
It was not until 2004 when he got a break. A lawyer arranged by his family took up his case to appeal the death sentence. The court reduced the sentence to life imprisonment. At least it meant he only needed to spend some time in prison before he is eligible for parole.
In 2006, he was baptised in prison to become a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. And in 2007, he was shifted to the main prison block.
In 2017, a lawyer again took up his case to the high court to appeal against the life sentence. The court agreed. Charles is now out on parole doing community work while living with relatives in Port Moresby.
While in prison, he took up carpentry courses under the rehabilitation programme and built desks for students at the Boreboa Primary School, Evadahana Primary School and Bomana Primary School. He also carried out renovation work on staff quarters in the prison compound plus other small repair work.
Rehabilitation programme officer Inspector Eko Mangere confirmed that the Correctional Service department will meet Charles’ fare back home. He will be monitored by officers at Lakiemata Prison when he is back home.
Charles was born on Aug 15, 1975, a month before the country gained independence.
He is looking forward to returning home.
“Committing crime looks easy but living in prison is hard knowing that you will not spend time with your loved ones for many years.”
He has a lot of catching up to do with his family, especially his twin sister, after being apart for 22 years.