Alarming report from Vanuatu Correctional Services

Detainees at the Luganville Low Risk Correctional Centre undertaking training with the Department’s Joinery Instructor. Photo: Department of Correctional Services

A report published by the Department of Correctional Services this year following a survey carried out in 2017 has revealed some surprising facts that illustrate the real situation the society is facing, in terms of offending.

This report provides a ‘snapshot’ of the Vanuatu offender population as on September 2017 or in other words, a profile of the people held in Vanuatu’s four Correctional Centres at that date and a profile of the people serving community-based sentences at that time.

The four correctional centres are in Port-Vila, Luganville, Tanna and Malekula.

The findings of 2017 census show that Tanna and Malekula were the most common home island of offenders, most offenders were resident in either Efate or Santo at the time of offending.

Tanna is very over-represented in number of offenders under community sentence and also over-represented in number of detainees.

Malekula, Pentecost, Paama, Tongoa and Ambrym are also over-represented in both categories, the census found.

Tanna is also very over-represented in number of detainees, and it is also over -represented in number of offenders under community sentence similar to Malekula, says the report.

Efate and Santo are under-represented in in both categories.

The census also provides information about the population of the four correctional centres, their island of origin, their religion, the offence in which they are convicted.

The detainee population on 11 September 2017 when the survey was carried out was 167 persons, all Ni-Vanuatu, including four females detained at Colardeau correctional centre in Port Vila.

The community based offender population on the same date was 213 persons. This include five women.

The oldest detainee in the census was 68 years old and the youngest 18. The oldest offender serving in the community at the time was 77 years old and the youngest 15.

Those who served in the community were the ones who have been convicted, had their sentence suspended by Courts and were directed to community works.

The data also shows that offenders under community sentences are very likely to serve their sentences on the island where they committed the offence.

The report reveals that the most common level of education for both detainees and community based offenders was Year 6. 78% of them were actively engaged in formal employment and 80% are first time offenders while 88% of offenders in the community are first timers.

18% of detainees on 11 September 2017 were on remand (awaiting trial, sentencing or awaiting to appear in Court for plea).

The highest number of offenders are between the age of 21 and 25 unlike the 2016 census where ages 26 to 30 dominate the offender age group.

Despite the fluctuation of the number of community offenders in these different age groups, the trend demonstrates that community base offenders are also getting older.

The Department of Correctional Centre has also revealed that the majority of detainees convicted in sexual violence are more than 45 years old and the majority of those convicted in other offences are under 45 years.

The report says Vanuatu’s rate of imprisonment is considerably lower that some of its closest neighbours in the Pacific and developed countries.

Daily Post was informed by the Department of Correctional Services that many churches and NGOs in Vanuatu are interested in the report which they were provided with copies.

They might take this report as a factual description of the sad side of Vanuatu which is a Christian country with motto “In God We Stand”.

The report will help NGOs and the government to tackle issues related to offences within the communities in both towns and islands.

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