Our prisons are a security risk

Editorial, Normal

WE have learnt with grave concern that the man who was in jail for a string of serious robberies was yesterday sprung from jail in what appears to be a carefully-planned move.
Our information is that yesterday morning between 8am and 10am a woman drove to the Bomana Jail on the outskirts of Port Moresby with a letter allegedly authorising her to visit a prisoner in the maximum security compound.
She posed as a lawyer and was well-dressed and appeared harmless to the two warders guarding the cells, who let her straight into the compound to see the prisoner.
Had the warders applied the normal and routine security check, they would have detected the gun she had, concealed under that fake letter of authority.
As she sat across the prisoner conversing, she slipped the gun into his hand.
The prisoner overpowered one of the warders and, holding the gun to his head, ordered the other to open the cells and let William Kapris and the others out.
Kapris and the others, it would appear, were well aware of what was unfolding.
Either they were totally in charge of the events having planned it all or they had been well briefed of what was about to happen.
Having overcome the helpless warders the entourage, now enlarged by 12 high risk prisoners, exited the prison and remained, as we went to print last night, at large.
The operation was a credit to excellent planning, the execution smooth and the success – well, excellent again.
The “open door” policy of the prison system has once again been applied – with the same rate of outstanding success this particular unofficial policy has enjoyed since about 10 years about Independence.
We hate the cynicism as much as the beleaguered and weary law fighting machinery in this country but we just don’t know how else to put it.
Will a day dawn soon when we see an end to the surprises that the unlawful have in store for the law abiding citizens and the law enforcement agencies of PNG?
Following yesterday’s escapade our entire law enforcement system appears again to have rotten egg splayed all over it and made a laughing stock of.
Was this an inside job? It does appear like it, although of course we can not be certain. If it is what can we surmise from it.
Are the criminals getting the upper hand in the law and order fight? It would seem like it. If it is what does it mean? And more especially, why is this so?
Some answers are already known.
The police high command, have told the Government that it has an aging force where the bulk of the present force of 4,000 or so are reaching or have reached retirement age.
This applies to officers as well as other ranks. The rate of infusion of young cadets is too low to fill in the gaps left by natural attrition and those who are retiring.
The ratio of police to citizens in this country is too low with one policeman to about 1,500 people when a far more comfortable figure might be one to 500 or less.
That would mean doubling the present force. Does the Government have the resources and the plans for such an expansion? Resources it certainly does and if not now, it will in a few short years. As to whether or not it has the foresight and the plans for such, remains a state secret.
The Correctional Services have their own problems of aging manpower as well as jail infrastructure.
Warders have been having a raging administrative battle with their command and political masters for improved terms and conditions.
They have been laying complaints about administrative foul ups and corruptive deals without getting a proper hearing or action.
They await fulfillment of promises as jail breaks occur one after another.
Can jail breaks be related to and perhaps even dependent on unfulfilled promises of new awards? We do not want to accuse warders of complacency but the answer to this question given the long-standing issues seems to suggest itself, does it not?
Both police and CS need new fleets of vehicles, renovation and maintenance of infrastructure and modernising of the forces – in terms of equipment as well as knowledge.
Into such an atmosphere, we are investors to spend billions and bringing up our young children, promising them a bright future.
Might we not be kidding ourselves and perhaps lying to our investors and children?
The answer to that we leave with you.