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PM O’Neill: Prisoner Day Release Halted Until Review – Penalties for Escape and Aiding Escapes to be Increased

The Prime Minister,  Peter O’Neill  has demanded a full explanation from Correctional Services as to why six prisoners were released from prison in Lorengau on Sunday, to then subsequently escape.

The Prime Minister has further announced a ban on all day temporary release of prisoners, except under exceptional circumstances, until a review of procedures is undertaken, and the enactment of stronger penalties for prisoners who escape lawful custody as well as those who aide or harbor them.

“The escape of six prisoners on day release is intolerable and places communities at risk,” the Prime Minister said.

“Some of these prisoners have attempted escape in the past and should never have been allowed outside prison walls.

“We need the right balance in our correctional services so that when a person is given a jail sentence, that they have a chance to reform and re-enter society.

“Day release from prison and gradual re-entry into society is an important part of rehabilitation. But too often we hear of cases where prisoners are released back into the public without due concern for the welfare of the public.

“This has to stop and it will stop. While there will be exceptional circumstances, such as legitimate medical care, the Government is taking a very clear stand on this important matter.

“I am instructing the CIS Minister to halt day release from prisons around the country until a full review of procedures has taken place and implemented.

“The children, women and men of our country deserve better, they deserve to know they are not at risk due to violent offenders being released into the community.”

PM O’Neill said efforts to apprehend the current escaped prisoners will be stepped up, and penalties for escaping or harboring escapees will be increased.

“I am instructing our Police and Correctional Services to increase their resources on Manus to apprehend the escaped prisoners.

“If the escapees have left Manus, they will be pursued until returned to lawful custody. They must then be taken to a higher security facility.

“Finally, our Government will review the penalties for prisoners who escape lawful custody, and those who help them escape or help them to hide.

“It is clear that the current penalties are not strong enough.

“We will send a strong message to any prisoner considering an escape attempt, or friends and family who would help them, that the full force of the law will be upon them and they can expect many more years in jail.

“I will consult with the Attorney General and the National Executive Council ahead of the first meeting of Parliament this year.”

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