Major inquiry needed for prisons

Editorial, Normal

THE recent spate of jail breaks throughout the country, with the mother of them being the clever springing from maximum security of criminal kingpin, William Nanua Kapris is frightening.
A country under virtual siege for decades by crime least needs a jail system that is as leaky as a bad roof in a hurricane.
Scarce State resources are divided between catching the multitude at large and also in running after those who have already been caught, brought to trial and put away only to have them run away again.
Such a situation only wanes the people’s confidence in the law enforcement system. While society cries out for an end to the gun culture that has sprung up and is catching hold in the country, there is a genuine case to be made for law abiding citizens who have lost confidence in the security forces to own guns – for self-protection. This will further perpetrate the gun culture until gun rule is established and anarchy is complete.
More is the reason for the Government to call out the military as The National proposed in this space yesterday to assist police in containing crime and removing high-powered guns from the community as an immediate to medium term measure while longer term measures are planned.
A lawless society has direct and indirect costs. The cost of doing business increases and businesses pass on such costs to customers and the cost of living increases. Corruptive pressures are exerted at all levels.
Foreign investors shy away while money laundering, drug and gun trafficking, human smuggling and other undesirable practices of the international criminal underworld make their home in the country.
This is not a warning against what might happen in future. It is warning about what is already happening in order that a lid be put on this before it spreads.
But going back to the jail breaks, their increased frequency of them point to a bigger problem inherent in the system.
It will require a far deeper investigation, probably by a Royal Commission of Inquiry by a group of eminent persons from organisations such as the Commonwealth secretariat.
Note that we ask for such a commission to be under the auspices of the Commonwealth secretariat or some other such body because we can then be certain of getting a final report published publicly.
The PNG Government has been suppressing far too many reports such as the Moti inquiry and the one into Finance Department. However, the security of PNG’s jails is now suspect.
There are any number of reasons why this may be so.
The terms and conditions of servicemen and women in the Correctional Services institutions has always been are area of concern for a long time.
The deteriorating conditions of the physical infrastructure of many of the jails are deplorable.
The Health Department has closed down a number of institutions a number of occasions because of filth and unhygienic conditions. Many fencing and buildings are pass use-by dates.
The reason why many jails are not just empty right now is because the bulk of the prison population comprises good people who have been sent there for minor misdemeanors.
Complaints of corruption in high levels of the CS hierarchy were made a long time ago but nobody seems to have undertaken a serious investigation into the allegations.
The warder population is aging and far too few warders are joining the service to replace those retiring or to fill positions vacated by natural attrition. Warder numbers could also be a determining factor.
Whether it is a combination of factors or one, it can only be uncovered by a thorough investigation by a competent authority which report must be made public and which recommendations must be acted upon.
To the recent escape involving one William Nanua Kapris, there is something fishy that warrants detailed investigation. Why was he in telephone communication with the outside world? Why are high profile politicians and bureaucrats including the police commissioner and the CS Commissioner in the habit of visiting him?
If he is indeed a bank robber, where is the loot? Why are relatives and bodyguards of important persons were seen with him after his escape?
These are questions which demand answers including Kapris’ mysterious statement that he escaped for political reasons.
The jail breaks are only symptomatic of bigger underlying issues.