PNG prisons overcrowded and understaffed

National

By LUKE KAMA
Buimo Jail commander Felix Namane yesterday highlighted the chronic manpower shortage at the Lae institution as well as the ageing workforce.
The case of Buimo – notorious for mass jail breaks – epitomises what is happening at jails all around the country.
Namane was blunt when addressing the top brass of Correctional Services during the second day of their 2019 annual activity and implementation plan workshop in Port Moresby.
“For Buimo, the holding capacity is 436, but the prisoners we have now as of Friday last week is 1058,” he said.
“Our current manpower is around 85, of which seven are serving in Finschhafen rural lock-up, so it’s below 80 against 1058 prisoners.”
“Looking at the statistics of prisoners now, not only in Buimo but in other jails throughout the country, most of the prisoners are within the 20-35 age group.
“How can you expect a few ageing CS officers to guard a large number of young and energetic prisoners?
“In the event they escape, the ageing officers cannot be able to match the speed and the strength of the prisoners. “This can be seen in the recent escape in Kimbe where prisoners attacked three CS officers, who guarded around 40 young and energetic prisoners on their way to a church service.
“This is a real issue which needs to be addressed immediately by the Government now then to wait for the recruitment of new CS officers.”
Similar concerns were raised by other prison commanders.
Acting CS Commissioner Stephen Pokanis said according to international standards, the maximum number of prisoners for a jail was 300 and the ratio was two prison wardens to one prisoner.
“That is the acceptable international standard but for us here in PNG, we never follow these standards,” he said. Pokanis said most CS facilities were holding prisoners beyond their capacity and were at the same time understaffed. Pokanis said the issues highlighted were very true.
“Though the Government has put a freeze on recruitment in public service, issue on manpower shortage is very critical (for CS),” he said.
“We are looking at recruiting around 100 to 120 officers to fill in the manpower gap before the end of this year through some workable arrangement with the Government.”

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