Holding cells overcrowded: Lae police

The Lae Metropolitan Command holding cells have over 110 detainees even though the maximum capacity is for 100 people only.

Metropolitan Superintendent, Chris Kunyanban, said this was a factor behind a recent escape from the cells.

Kunyanban said detainees recently cut through the Lae holding cells fence and escaped when they were taken out to have their shower.

And while the fence has been fixed, the problem still remains; and that is overcrowding.

Kunyanban said while those who escaped were held for minor crimes, the cells also have people who have been remanded as well as convicted prisoners.

“Because of the policy we have with the CS (Correctional Services) where after 14 days we bring 50 prisoners up to CS, it’s really giving us stress. So currently as we speak, we have more than 110 people in the police cells – and that is a lot. We should be keeping below 100.”

Kunyanban listed COVID-19 protocols as another reason behind the backlog in court cases, which leads to overcrowded police cells.

“The system itself will be blocked in a way,” he stated. “The cycle will not continue. We take people to court and people have to go to CS, and then from people in CS, once they completed their conviction period, they will be sent back out to the community – this won’t happen because once it goes to the courts, it will get blocked again because of certain COVID-19 restrictions.

“Also, we are mindful in implementing the COVID-19 policy for CS.

“A lot of trivial matters have been referred back to the settlements for the law and order people to deal with. And most of the time now, you will see policemen are using their discretion to talk to people (offenders) and let them go back to the community.”

Kunyanban said only those who have committed serious offences will be held in custody.  

Carmella Gware