Hope for notorious jail

Herald Sun, Australia/April 25, 2008

Papua New Guinea's Boen jail is no Alcatraz, despite being home to some of the country's most notorious inmates.

Just days ago, in the run-up to yesterday's opening of a new Australian-funded wing, 10 prisoners broke out.

They got five back, jail chief Jo Jako said, but it's almost guaranteed to happen again in a country where mass jail breaks are common.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith officiated at yesterday's opening, saying the new women's wing was the "bricks and mortar" of Canberra's efforts to help PNG improve law and order.

But there will need to be more spent than the $3 million it cost for the new wing.

The country's prisons are, for the most part, rundown and plagued by poor security.

Mr Jako said Australian money had made Boen one of PNG's top jails, but says it's still not 100 per cent secure.

The admission is an alarming, if unsurprising, one for the people of Madang, given the nature of some of the inmates held there.

One is a notorious cult leader known across the country as Black Jesus - a man who says his religious beliefs entitled him to rape more than 400 girls.

Police have charged Steven Tari with seven counts of rape involving girls and women who belonged to his sect.

The cult once had thousands of supporters, and was also allegedly involved in sacrificial killings, cannibalism and blood rituals.

Tari was only captured in March last year by angry villagers, having eluded authorities for more than a year, hiding in remote mountain camps and guarded by a core of armed protectors.

Mr Jako insists his 78 guards keep a close eye on high-profile prisoners like Tari, and former Madang Governor James Yali, who is serving a 12-year sentence for rape.

The people of Madang must be hoping that is true.

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