6 Jul 2009

Hopes that civilian prison guards will reduce violence in Vanuatu's jails

6:06 am on 6 July 2009

The head of Vanuatu's Corrections Service hopes the use of special prison guards, rather than police and military personnel, will help reduce violence at the prisons.

The move to change staff makes it one of the first correction services in the Pacific to be demilitarised.

The move follows the establishment of a Corrections Service in 2006, which was to be independent of the police force.

It also comes after a string of prison breakouts last year and revelations that inmates had been mistreated.

Mark Bebe, who was appointed Director of the Corrections Service in January, says there was a lack of discipline when the prisons were run by the police, but this was coupled with violence against detainees.

"Sometimes they allowed detainees this freedom, but then when this freedom is abused, the officers themselves abused this freedom by also beating them up extremely, but also kicking them and using abusive language on them. So one of my responsibilities when I come in is to stop these beatings."

Mark Bebe says routines and discipline have been introduced as civilian corrections officers have taken over the operation of the prisons.