Prison deaths in Malta were in the spotlight this year, with the secrecy around deaths and sparse details being released when they occur often leading to rumours spreading in amidst heightened emotions.
Magisterial inquiries often take years to be completed, with only tidbits of official information given publicly about them until they are… and oftentimes very little coming out once they are done.
However, some information can be found by looking at the magisterial inquiries that have concluded over the last few years.
“Magisterial inquiries that have been concluded regarding deaths that happened in prison since 2013 state that the absolute majority of deaths that occurred with the Correctional Facility were natural deaths. In most circumstances, the prisoners had been suffering from a medical condition,” a Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson told Lovin Malta.
While an inquiry into Ihtisham’s death is still ongoing, an autopsy found that he died due to a heart condition, a condition his family say they didn’t know about.
Mifsud’s death is believed to be a suicide ahead of him being extradited to the US over child molestation charges from the 1980s.
Little information has been made public about the 45-year-old’s death, but unofficial sources said the man was known to be overweight and a heavy smoker, though this has not been confirmed officially.
Four people died in 2019.
“With regards to the remaining inquiries, one in four deaths were caused by suicide,” the spokesperson continued.
However, they were quick to point out that so far, no magisterial inquiry ever pinned the blame for a death on the prison system itself.
“It must be noted that from the concluded magisterial inquiries, it was clearly delineated that none of the deaths occurred as a result of shortcomings or negligence from the Correctional Services Agency,” they said.
“And for the record, there was only one internal inquiry which placed blame on the staff. The case goes back to 2016 and concerns the death of an inmate who was being detained under preventive arrest in the Forensic Division of Mount Carmel Hospital.”
In the US, a country known for its high imprisonment rate, an average of 300 per 100,000 died from 2015 in state prisons – that’s three prisoners per 1,000.
In the UK, around 293 prisoners died out of an average of 83,000 prisoners in 2020 – that’s around three and a half prisoners per 1,000.
In Malta, four prisoners dead out of an average population of about 800 in 2020 – that’s around five prisoners per 1,000.