A painting by a female detainee

There has been a rise in the number of detainees in the new women’s prison. Director of the Department of Correctional Services, Johnny Marango, says in the past between 2006 – 2010 they never had more than 10 inmates and since 2015 they never had over 10 inmates. He says the highest number they had in 2010 was 3 inmates.

Marango says today there are 11 inmates in the new women’s prison at Stade. He says 8 are convicted while three are on remand. He says 2 of the 11 are breast feeding mothers. He says the baby has a right to breast feed according to the Correctional Service Act. He explains that for the first 6 months the baby needs to be with his or her mother and the infant can stay up to 2 years at the discretion of the Correctional officers.

Marango says the ages of the inmates range from 20 to 40 years of age. He says most of the inmates are detained for misappropriation and manslaughter.

Unlike the men’s prison, there is no segregation between high risk and low risk inmates as he says the women seemed a lot calmer than the men. He says if the need for separation must be done, sleeping quarters will be rearranged, however he says they have only had one incident of such nature.

Marango also says when the new juvenile prison opens on Santo it will only be for male inmates as juvenile female offenders will be kept together with the adult inmates.

Out of the 11 inmates, Marango says only one is eligible for parole.

In terms of rehabilitation, they have sewing, drawing and spiritual visit programs. Marango says this really gives the inmates an opportunity to change their mindsets. He says sewing seems to be the activity they enjoy the most.

Marango says before an offender is released into her community, there must be some form of reconciliation with the victim and the respective community must accept her back, the Correction Service also accesses the community situation before releasing the offender.

Marango says the chiefs sometimes act as parole officers and when offenders are out on parole, they are observed and reported back every 2 weeks, 3 weeks and a month gradually as improvement in her behavior is observed. The offender is detained again if she does something wrong while on parole.

He says the vast majority of offenders who have been released turned their lives around and are living well these days. A lot of their respective communities have accepted them well.

Marango says in Vanuatu there is a low reoffending rate among women and Vanuatu is the 4th in the Pacific. He says those who re-offend seemed to do it on purpose because they feel prison is the only place they belong. He also says most re-offenders come from broken homes and homes where they are raised by step parents.

While addressing the causes of what pushes the women to commit crimes, Marango says a lot of women commit misappropriation at work, due to the hard economic pressure they face with their families, since they work hard but receive a low salary.

With those who commit assault, these are results of unsettled homes and in some cases these are revenge attacks. Marango says alcohol also contributes to these assaults as some commit assault under the influence of alcohol.

Marango says a lot of these offenders do not go to church and there are no chiefs nearby to offer any form of counselling. He also says most of these offenders also have low literacy and low income backgrounds.

A lot of urban offenders do not know their culture, especially the value of respect, so chiefs will be involved to instill such values. He believes the chiefs should come in and teach juvenile offenders about culture to help them change their ways.

With the new prison complex at Stade, both inmates and Correctional officers are enjoying it as it is more secure in bad weather and it is also cyclone proof.