Samoa prisons could use drones to monitor inmates

An investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman into a prisoner's death has found there aren't enough correction officers to man labour zones, and has called for the use of drones to monitor prisoners.

Kolani Junior Lam, who was serving a life sentence at Tanumalala Prison for the murder of his wife, was pronounced dead at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital on February 8.

The coroner, Judge Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papalii, directed the Ombudsman to investigate the circumstances surrounding Lam's death.

Due to the high turnover rate of correction officers at the Tanumalala Prison, the Ombudsman's report recommended the use of drones to assist authorities to monitor prisoners in the labour zone.

The Ombudsman's report also recommended that prisoners' complaints and concerns be addressed seriously as well as offered counselling for those who were not successful in their court appeals against their sentences.

Lam was not successful in his appeal to overturn his conviction by the court.

It was suspected that Lam had ingested paraquat, a restricted pesticide on the day he died.

According to the Ombudsman's investigation, only one corrections officer reported for duty and he was monitoring the prisoners stationed at the cattle farm when the prisoners rushed to attend to Lam.

The Ombudsman's report stated that the labour zones were not sufficiently manned.

The report is recommending that it was made strictly mandatory for all assets to be released to corrections officers only.

"It is a physical risk to prison staff for prisoners to be so accessible to assets that could potentially be weaponised against them," the report stated.