- News ››
- Business News ››
- Features ››
- Gossip ››
- Buzz FM News
- Tourism ››
Vanuatu Prison System – a personal view
With what has been happening of late
I thought we should take this space to revisit the customs and cultures behind a Typical prison service and then look at what we have here in Vanuatu that is so obviously not working for anyone. So please get your coffee ready and sit relax, have a read and enjoy the morning.
What is a prison?
A prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms.
Who is a prisoner?
A prisoner is someone who is held forcibly against his/her will.
Prisons are conventionally institutions, which form part of the criminal justice system of a country, such that imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime. ( Do the Crime, Do the Time)
In many countries, the term gaol (jail) is considered synonymous with prison, although legally these are often distinct institutions: typically jails are intended to hold persons awaiting trials or serving sentences of less than one year, whereas prisons host prisoners serving longer sentences. (In Vanuatu most homes are doing this, a form of billet system if you like, with prisoners walking the streets at night at will practicing what they went to prison for in the 1st place many achieving A plus in Robbery as a final commendation, with a certificate to prove it!!!)
A criminal suspect who has been charged with or is likely to be charged with a criminal offense may be held on remand in prison if he or she is denied, refused or unable to meet conditions of bail, or is unable to post bail. This may also occur where the court determines that the suspect is at risk of absconding before the trial, or is otherwise a risk to society. A criminal defendant may also be held in prison while awaiting trial or a trial verdict. If found guilty, a defendant will be convicted and may receive a custodial sentence requiring imprisonment.
Prisons may also be used as a tool of political repression to detain political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and "enemies of the state", particularly by authoritarian regimes. In times of war or conflict, prisoners of war may also be detained in prisons. A prison system is the organizational arrangement of the provision and operation of prisons, and depending on their nature, may invoke a corrections system. Although people have been imprisoned throughout history, they have also regularly been able to perform prison escapes.
It would appear we have no prisons in Vanuatu as we keep losing our detainees and then a select few of our politicians seem to be able to miraculously do what the service cannot and retrieve them, funny that eh...
Modern Prison background
Various Types of Prisons in use thru out the world aside from those being discussed. Juvenile, Military, Political, Psychiatric, and Rehabilitation. Prisoners throughout the modern world Like America Boast the highest number of prisoners per 100,000 people with a staggering 756, Russia is close behind with 611, while Australia has 126 and France a meager 85 per 100,000 people. Vanuatu has a very fluctuating number as we do not seem to have a system capable of keeping them inside.
Prisons are normally surrounded by fencing, walls, earthworks, geographical features, or other barriers to prevent escape. Multiple barriers, concertina wire, electrified fencing, secured and defensible main gates, armed guard towers, lighting, motion sensors, dogs, and roving patrols may all also be present depending on the level of security. Remotely controlled doors, CCTV monitoring, alarms, cages, restraints, nonlethal and lethal weapons, riot-control gear and physical segregation of units and prisoners may all also be present within a prison to monitor and control the movement and activity of prisoners within the facility. Ours are surrounded by terrified neighbors and escaping walk out- prisoners.
History of the prison;
For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to lock up criminals until corporal or capital punishment can be dealt. There were prisons used for detention in Jerusalem in Old Testament times. Dungeons were used to hold prisoners; those who were not killed or left to die there often became galley slaves or faced penal transportations. In other cases debtors were often thrown into debtor's prisons, until they paid their jailers enough money in exchange for a limited degree of freedom. Only in the 19th century did prisons as we know them today become common place.
The first "modern" prisons of the early 19th Century were sometimes known by the term "penitentiary" (a term still used by some prisons in the USA today): as the name suggests, the goal of these facilities was that of penance by the prisoners, through a regimen of strict disciplines, silent reflections, and maybe forced labor on tread wheels and the like. This "Auburn system" of prisoner management was often reinforced by elaborate prison architectures, such as the separate system and the panopticon. The concept of this design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched It was not until the late 19th Century did rehabilitation through education and skilled labor become the standard goal of prisons.
A typical modern jail cell.
Male and female prisoners are typically kept in separate locations or separate prisons altogether. Prison accommodation, especially modern prisons in the developed world, are often divided into wings. A building holding more than one wing is known as a "hall".
Amongst the facilities that prisons may have are:
A main entrance, A chapel, An 'education facility', A gym or an exercise yard, A healthcare facility, A segregation unit (also called a 'block' or 'isolation cell'), used to separate unruly, dangerous, or vulnerable prisoners from the general population, also sometimes used as punishment, A section of vulnerable prisoners (VPs), or protective Custody (PC) units, used to accommodate prisoners classified as vulnerable, such as sex offenders, former police officers, informants, and those that have gotten into debt or trouble with other prisoners, A section of safe cells, used to keep prisoners under constant visual observation, for example when considered at risk of suicide A visiting area, A death row, A staff accommodation area, A service/facilities area with some Industrial or agricultural plants operated with convict labour A recreational area and so on it goes.
Modern prison designs, particularly those of high-security prisons, have sought to increasingly restrict and control the movement of prisoners throughout the facility while minimizing the corrections staffing needed to monitor and control the population. As compared to the traditional landing-cellblock-hall designs, many newer prisons are designed in a decentralized "podular" layout with individual self-contained housing units, known as "pods" or "modules", arranged around centralized outdoor yards in a "campus". The pods contain tiers of cells laid out in an open pattern arranged around a central control station from which a single corrections officer can monitor all of the cells and the entire pod. Control of cell doors, communications and CCTV monitoring is conducted from the control station as well. Movement out of the pod to the exercise yard or work assignments can be restricted to individual pods at designated times, or else prisoners may be kept almost always within their pod or even their individual cells depending upon the level of security. Goods and services, such as meals, laundry, commissary, educational materials, religious services and medical care can increasingly be brought to individual pods or cells as well.
Lower-security prisons are often designed with less restrictive features, confining prisoners at night in smaller locked dormitories or even cottage or cabin-like housing while permitting them freer movement around the grounds to work or activities during the day.
As defined above, this would mean that our prisoners should be held forcibly against his/her will.
This does not appear to be happening here in Vanuatu, I believe that the corrective services are doing the best they can in a system that is not helping them at worst and keeping their hands tied at best, they need a heap of help right now not raw and uninformed criticism that is only making the whole process more political and less efficient,… We need for the correctional services to become more insular and create their own culture that allows them to deal with prisoners and detainees alike without feeling like they have to bow to all custom and cultural laws as these have ended at the time they have become incarcerated, and allow proper hands on assistance from the NZ wardens… perhaps Vila should look to Santo for help certainly our lads here with the help of the NZ correctional services do not seem to have too much trouble keeping them in. unfortunately what is happening and what they have been doing is not acceptable even if they are giving 100% it is still not enough to satisfy our needs as free citizens and visitors alike to feel safe in our homes..
Who to blame?;
NZ gave us a system that was designed specifically to provide them with a clear conscience as a result of their conflict with the Maoris in their own country. As has been pointed out here many times this type of pandering due to past grievances is not necessary in this country as it is the Sovereign Country of Vanuatu and as such should punish its prisoners as she sees fit. New Zealand currently maintains 19 prisons around the country. The Department of Corrections has an annual budget of NZD$748 million and assets worth over NZD$1.7 billion. Official statistics show (as of June 30, 2007) that there are currently 7,605 prisoners within the New Zealand correctional system. (5,490 Sentenced Prisoners and 1,552 Remanded Prisoners) + 5,795 staff. Breakouts are only at 0.15 per 100 prisoners and there is a rate of only 15% positive drug results during random drug testing in NZ prisons.
Port Vila boasts over a 50% breakout rate per month, seems they have not learnt to much yet from our NZ friends.
What are we doing wrong? Well it would appear from what we have just read, the basics. We are not keeping them inside. We must first not blame the prisoners for leaving their detention, as this is something they have been doing throughout the world ever since man was first incarcerated, it is but a game to them, remember they are in there for a reason not for leading the class at Sunday school.
We need to stop petty bickering between the stakeholders and realise this needs to be a team effort or no amount of effort will control the situation. We have to stop blaming everyone else and we need to step up to the plate and fully appreciate we have got it wrong. We need to address the problem as one without trying to score cheap political points, lord knows there is enough opportunity for that in the next few months. Then we need to address it before it is too late. Already the place is getting full of young squirrels that have no respect for anyone because they know that they cannot be punished. With all the urban drift the youth of today are fast losing their identity which allows them to lose their direction values and principles along with accepting orders from elders and chiefs as that too is being slowly stripped from them all. In most countries there is a saying, “ Nobody is above the law” well the problem we have here is that when we comes to Criminal Law. Sorry we don’t really have any. We have no real means of identifying suspects scientifically nor do we have the technology to identify suspects post humously. NZ where are you now. I know Australia is only interested in tax evasion so there is no use asking them for any help to protect the people of Vanuatu from Real dangerous life threatening criminals. Common sense is needed here not pacific regional feel good been there done that hypocrisy from both our larger neighbors, give Vanuatu what it needs not what you think she needs. A correctional system with support and training as is needed when is needed.
Do what works for Vanuatu; it is after all Vanuatu we are in not NZ. If they wish to help fund Vanuatu’s prisons so be it, thank you NZ. Please do not make us follow your correctional service system which is clearly not working here. Help Vanuatu by funding Vanuatu and not by telling a completely different culture and custom how to incarcerate their own. Let us all feel that we are safe and keep dogs to pat not kill.
Have a great weekend.
>>The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the Vanuatu Daily Post.