PNG Jails Under Stress

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Escalating numbers of prisoners on remand

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, August 29, 2014) – Prison authorities are concerned about the escalating number of remand prisoners, who this year alone will cost the ministry more than K13 million to feed and care for.

Correctional Services Minister Jim Simatab said as of last Friday (August 22), the total prison population in the country stood at 4280. And out of this, 1434 (or 34%) are on remand.

He said it was a huge burden on the ministry and prison authorities.

"On average, an inmate on remand can wait for up to two to three years before they can complete their trial and are either released from prison, or convicted by the courts," he said.

Simatab said: "Some have waited for as long as five years before their fates were determined. It costs just over K9000 [US$3,514] per year to feed and care for an inmate. Hence, our detainee population will cost the Correctional Service over K13 million [US$5,760,000] this year."

He said some prisons were over-crowded and holding numbers twice their capacity.

"Such a situation is inhuman, as living conditions can deteriorate very rapidly. Overcrowding is a recipe for prison escapes," he said.

He said a solution would be for the Parole Board to increase the frequency of its sittings "so that it can expedite deliberations on pending detainee cases".

"The Correctional Service has continuously reviewed the candidates for release on parole, and it is estimated that close to 50% of the convicted prisoners are eligible for immediate parole consideration," he said.

"If these citizens can be released from our prisons on license, it would reduce the pressure on the total detainee population and make life easier for correctional institutions."

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