PNG PRISONS CONFIRM CHRISTMAS FREEING OF 115 INMATES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 29, 1998 - Post-Courier)---All 115 prisoners in jails throughout PNG who were authorized for yearend release by Prime Minister Bill Skate were freed on Christmas Day.

Many prisons confirmed yesterday that those recommended for release were freed. They were all serving time for minor offences and did not pose any threat to society. More than half of the freed prisoners were men. The rest were women and juveniles under 16 years of age.

Buimo Jail Commander Samson Jaro said the 37 nominated for early release by the Adhoc Committee for Early Release were freed, but he called on prison authorities and the committee to look at releasing those serving longer terms. He said it would be good to release prisoners who are being detained for minor crimes but, he added, it may not have much effect on some of them since they will be leaving the prisons anyhow because of their short imprisonment terms.

Mr. Jaro made a plea to the authorities that those serving longer terms in prisons be recommended for release also. He said those who have served more than 10 to 20 years and who have served more than half of their terms should be released after carefully studying their situations and the nature of the crimes for which they were detained.

Mr. Jaro said some of them are being detained by mistake or for things for which they are not directly responsible, and the Parole Board should consider the various cases separately.

Prime Minister Bill Skate last week authorized the release of 115 prisoners throughout PNG jails. Mr. Jaro said of 36 Buimo prisoners, 32 were males, two juveniles and four females.

Boram Jail in East Sepik confirmed releasing 11 prisoners. All of them were men who had been detained for minor crimes. Jail commander David Melange said he recommended 54 prisoners for release but most them were new and had not served major parts of their terms, so they were not approved for release.

Bihute Prison in the Eastern Highlands confirmed releasing five detainees. Prison Commander Andy Sisipi said the five were all men who had served most of their terms and were to be released next month.

The next lot of prisoners will be released on New Year's Day but the exact number is not known. The matter is still being considered by the Adhoc Committee on Early Release and prison commanders said they have not yet received any advice from the committee.

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