An emotional and explosive episode of Xarabank delving into life inside Cordin Correctional Facility shed light on Prison Director General, Col. Alex Dalli’s tough stance on tackling drug abuse.
He was not spared severe criticism over the crumbling facility however it was shockingly refreshing to listen to testimony of previous and current prisoners who have had their lives uprooted by drugs to say they support how Dalli is clearing Malta’s prison of illicit substances.
One woman, who could not help but smile through her pain, conceded that previous prison sentences she served where much easier as the time would pass by very quickly, implying that the drugs helped to blur the passing of time. She admitted that the current sentence she is serving, for stealing a large television to sustain her drug addiction, has been much harder without drugs as companionship.
“This time I am feeling my time in prison… not like last time. When I served nine years lat time, it was easy, I didn’t even notice the time passing. But this time I am feeling it. The Warden is stopping us, it’s not easy,” she said with a guilty smile on her face.
One known prisoner, who even had his wife wind up behind bars for trying to smuggle in drugs, said that in his opinion drugs inside prison have been reduced by a staggering 95%.
Another prisoner who was more cautious in his wording said: “I will not say that drugs have completely been eradicated, as no prison in the world is free of drugs, but they have been reduced by about 90% I would say.”
Driving home the stark contrast with the previous situation, two of the prisoners interviewed on Xarabank say they recall times when outside of prison certain drugs would not be available, but inside the four walls you could easily find them.
Back in September, Dalli made headlines after it was revealed that the room where prisoners were permitted to benefit from conjugal visits with their partners had its door removed.
This meant that prisoners were no longer able to have private intimate moments with their loved one. A backlash ensued after members of the public slammed authorities for losing their humanity, claiming an overly harsh stance would only work to the prisoners’ detriment. Others firmly believed that after people break the laws of the land, they should not be rewarded with such privileges. Dalli, when confronted with his decision to remove extended visits, stuck to his guns, saying that it is important for discipline to be instilled in the prisoners. He highlighted the abuse that would take place through extended visitation rights.
Pressed to say whether private extended visits would again be granted once the prison’s new body scanners are up and running, he would not explicitly say so, adding that there are alternatives to the previous system of private extended visitation rights which are being contemplated.
While his tough methods have been questioned, testimony by prisoners themselves on the popular Friday-night programme suggest that they are less vulnerable to a never-ending supply of drugs.
Dalli was appointed to the role of Director General just over six months ago, before which he served with the Armed Forces of Malta.
Drugs have been a serious problem inside Malta’s prison system for years, as is the case with many prisons around the world. Dalli is employing tough measures such as solitary confinement and having rights stripped away for those caught with drugs, as well as removing extended visitation rights in his effort to curb abuse.