Reading lesson: Unlawful Imprisonment

unlawful imprisonment reading lesson in English cover

Read this article about a problem with one person’s prison sentence. You can also listen to an audio recording of the article.

Unlawful Imprisonment

Have you ever made a mistake on a form or report? Well for one man, this mistake cost him five years of his life.

A clerical error in the Samoan prison system allowed a man to be incarcerated for five years longer than he was convicted to serve. His name is Sio Agafili and he is from the small island of Samoa, closest to Australia. Now, the forty-five-year-old man is expected to be released from prison after doing a mandatory prison sentence.

Mr. Agafili was convicted of burglary and theft in November 2008. He was sentenced to serve seven years in prison. Just a month later, he was found guilty of other small crimes, or misdemeanors, and got a five-year sentence. According to the Samoan criminal justice system, this does not equal a twelve-year prison sentence. The Samoan justice system states that a convicted felon with two sentences has to serve them concurrently, or at the same time. Felons should not serve their sentences consecutively. In Mr. Agafili’s case, he was forced to serve the full 12 years. This clerical error was finally discovered by a judge when Mr. Agafili appeared in court on a separate charge.

Mr. Agafili gave a heart-breaking interview with the Samoa Observer newspaper as he reflected on his time served in prison. He was quoted saying, “It broke my heart and made me feel hopeless because I didn’t know when my sentence would end. I cried and cried every day that one day I would be released so I can see my beautiful family.” Muriel Lui, Mr. Agafili’s lawyer spoke to the Samoa Observer about the unfair treatment suffered by Mr. Agafili. She exclaimed, “There was an injustice done to my client and he has suffered greatly. He was imprisoned unlawfully, and I know that there are many similar cases in the Samoan criminal justice system!” Ms. Lui will be seeking financial compensation for Mr. Agafili due to the mistake.

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