The tragedy of sending a person to prison for smoking or selling marijuana is terrible enough in itself - but sending someone to prison right after they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is a whole new level of cruelty.
Such was the fate of Christopher Bartolo. The Maltese man was diagnosed with kidney failure, and was told he would need to undergo dialysis treatment to survive. The average life expectancy on dialysis treatment is 5 - 10 years; Chris, being 36 years old, recently unemployed, and a father of young children, was now facing a grim future.
However, the Maltese people are a generous lot, and he was able to find a kidney donor, and successfully have it transplanted. Just like that, his life was back on track, he got a new job, and a family in Gozo were happy again.
That’s when the Maltese Justice System decided to lay down the law. After being caught with 126g of cannabis resin - barely €1,000 worth - the police decided to take an awful situation and make it worse.
As always, timing is key when dealing with severe drug dealing kingpins, and they had to catch this big time drug dealer at his most vulnerable. They picked him up leaving hospital after a five-hour dialysis session. Under interrogation and still woozy from the dialysis treatment, he admitted to everything and cooperated with police fully.
The Maltese Justice System was faced with the result of the failed War on Drugs: a wheelchair bound husband and father, at great risk of losing his life, who had harmed not a single person, in front of them to be heard his fate. And the Maltese Justice System knew just what he needed to become a better person in society: 5 years in a prison cell.
"This man has been in a damp prison cell with a body that is failing him - all without any luxuries like air-conditioning, a fan, necessary medicine, or even easily accessible water."
He soon after lost his donated kidney. If you thought you were having a bad summer, think that this man has been in a damp prison cell with a body that is failing him - all without any luxuries like air-conditioning, a fan, necessary medicine, or even easily accessible water.
The situation has reached a breaking point. Just this week an emergency Appeal hearing was called due to Christopher’s deteriorating health, in which Christopher’s sentence was appealed.
After hearing all the arguments, and seeing Christopher’s family and kidney donor, Chief Judge Silvio Camilleri, in all his wisdom and experience, came to one conclusion: that Bartolo needed to make more sacrifices to convince the court he had overcome his “drug addiction”.
The man is lying in a cell unable to piss, his family fatherless at home, his donated kidney and main chance at a life rotting in the trash, and the Maltese Justice System needs him to make more sacrifices?
What are these judges smoking exactly? We need to find what it is, and make it illegal, because it’s clearly harmful to society - especially the kids.
His hearing continues this week, concluding at the end of next week. If the court does not want to condemn a man to an avoidable death, or at the very least shorten his lifespan considerably, they would do good to look towards their Catholic roots and Hospitalier history.
Or maybe the compassion part of a reformative justice system has been thrown in the trash, just like Christopher’s kidney.