The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in Papua New Guinea, John Momis, says the lack of a jail contributed to the recent violence in Buka.
The violence, in which two people died and 34 houses were torched, has highlighted the fragility of Bougainville as the region prepares for a vote on independence from Port Moresby.
A womens' advocacy group said the violence was due to the easy availability of alcohol and the continued access to illegal guns in the community.
Mr Momis said it was untypical behaviour for Bougainville and he blamed people wanting to stir up trouble.
He said this was made easy because Bougainville's policing capability is weak.
"Our police just doesn't have the enforcement capability, totally lacks that capability. If the police were effective then these people would be rounded up quickly and put behind bars but, you know, we don't even have a jail. We cannot afford to have a jail."
John Momis said successive national governments and foreign aid donors had never provided the necessary funds to build a prison.