Over 35 NGOs, academic institutions and professional organisations have joined forces to demand an overhaul in prison reform, including actionable plans for rehabilitation, a designated Ombudsperson, and an increased state presence to monitor activity inside the prison walls.
A total of 38 organisations and stakeholders issued a statement earlier today condemning the “ongoing uncertainty” at Corradino Correctional Facility. It comes just days after a prisoner died eight days after attempting to commit suicide in his cell.
“The number of deaths registered at this facility in these last years has tragically climbed to 13 individuals, including the recent deaths by suicide of a 30-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman,” the statement read.
With the latest figures, Malta’s prison now has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe.
“This fact, combined with dubious operational methods more distinctive of a long-gone archaic prison model, is extremely concerning.
“One needs to keep in mind that the corrections phase is an essential one in the continuum of services within the criminal justice system. When this fails, it puts the whole system at risk and causes significant collateral damage,” the statement continued.
The 38 entities unanimously agreed that the lack of transparency following the deaths, the subsequent “inadequate reaction” and the long delays are a major cause of concern and have called for radical reform in the country’s prison system.
They called for further state oversight, the shouldering of responsibility, an Ombudsperson for prison and probation, the re-thinking of solitary confinement, action care plans for rehabilitation, a restorative justice system, and new leadership.
“In conclusion, we promote a shift in outlook for our correctional system – one that ensures justice but is also founded on compassion and rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation and social re-entry must be at the heart of the service delivery. The current focus on punishment, retribution and disparagement must be critically scrutinised both in terms of its effectiveness and its overall justification by the current facility management,” the statement ended.
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri took to social media to shed light on the improvements made in the prison system compared to the “laissez-faire” approach of the past.
“Many express their opinion that prison today is very different from what it was a while ago, where now there is more order, more cleanliness, no access to drugs, a healthy medical service and a process has begun where, with the help of professionals, there will be rehabilitation for those serving a sentence,” he said.
“It is essential that we do not go back to the laissez-faire approach that existed until recently”.
Camilleri also acknowledged that the correctional facility does have its shortcomings, primarily overcrowding.
“There is no doubt that population growth has also posed a major challenge to the building, which houses hundreds of people and has unfortunately undergone little investment for many years.
“Perhaps the biggest shortcoming was and still is that for many years we have always put everyone in one place, sometimes bed to bed,” he said.
The Home Affairs Ministry also plans to introduce electronic tagging and increase resources for prison NGO Mid-Dlam Għad-Dawl.
Meanwhile, PN spokesperson Beppe Fenech Adami issued a statement where he said Camilleri was “cut off from the grave realities” found in prison today.
“Byron Camilleri is so cut off from reality that he chooses to continue defending the prison director whom, under his watch, these deaths occurred.
The same minister today chose to continue to defend the prison system instead of reforming it, leading to despair and suicide,” he said.
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