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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 1, 2001 – Post-Courier)---The Correctional Services Department spends up to K 2.5 million (US$ 718,750) each year to feed and keep remandees in jails, says Commissioner Richard Sikani.

Speaking at the close of the weeklong Jail Commanders Conference in Goroka, Mr. Sikani said remandees are the most serious problem facing jails.

"Remandees are fed three times daily for doing nothing and are not contributing to the activities of the prisons. It costs us around K 2.5 million (US$ 718,750) annually to feed the remandees in our prisons,’’ he said.

The closing address was given as a search continued for 62 prisoners, many of them remandees, who escaped from Bomana Jail last Tuesday morning.

Said Mr. Sikani: "The biggest problem Correctional Service has with remandees is the continuous escape by remandees in nearly all prisons in the country. The public live in fear when they hear prisoners have escaped from prisons. Nowadays most of the escapes are engineered by remandees in prison. In most of our prisons the remandees make up more than 75 percent of the total prison population."

"Correctional institutions have no say or control over the number of remandees sent to prisons by the courts. Most remandees escape from prisons because they have been waiting for many months or years for their cases to be heard by the appropriate courts,’’ Mr. Sikani said.

Addressing senior jail officers, Mr. Sikani said the department could not perform its role of managing the prisons without adequate funding.

The new corporate plan could not be effectively implemented without funds, Mr. Sikani said.

He thanked and praised provincial governments for the help they continue to provide to the jails. He said the help from provincial governments has enabled the jails to run projects to help prisoners and warders.

Mr. Sikani also assured officers he was taking personal charge of the task of reviewing the correctional service structure, which had not been done as directed by the previous Skate government in 1997.

He said the existing structure was unfair and had created serious problems for the organization.

"Only commissioned officers are placed on the departmental structured positions and not other ranks," Mr. Sikani said. "The Correctional Service has also done a disservice to our civilians officers with their employment terms and conditions not reviewed in the last 16 years.

"The new structure will cater for all personnel in the Correctional Service,’’ said Mr. Sikani.

He said opportunities for promotion will be based only on merit.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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