Corradino Correctional Facility, built in 1842, now accommodates an average of 800 inmates at any one time, almost double its expected capacity.
The establishment’s 469 cells are all built to accommodate a single person in detention. The sad and scandalous truth is that as many as 206 cells “house” two or more inmates, with 179 other inmates held in 15 rooms, referred to, in Orwellian fashion, as “dormitories.”
It is in this context that the Nationalist Party launched last week nine discussion proposals to remedy this dire situation.
The first proposal is that a process should be started immediately to increase the number of cells by 125, with all the necessary ancillary facilities. This would be done by building a new block within the facility, the cost of which is estimated at 2.5 million euros.
Second, given that around 50% of the prison population are foreigners – the current figure is 457 – the PN has committed to reducing the foreign prison population by 15% by repatriating them, through the various obligations. of inter-state cooperation.
Thirdly, it should be noted that during the month of March, 278 people were detained on a preventive basis while their proceedings were still pending before the courts. This represents more than a quarter of the current prison population.
The PN believes that this is not fair because the state should guarantee their presumption of innocence while awaiting their hearing. The speed of criminal proceedings would lead to a reduction in the number of pre-trial detainees.
As a first step in this regard, the PN proposes an increase in the number of magistrates responsible for hearing the compilation of evidence. We believe that pre-conviction detention should be the exception and not the rule, applied only in very serious cases where there is no alternative.
The fourth proposal is to invest more so that Caritas and other NGOs can introduce new programs for prisoners, allowing them to serve their sentence, or part of them, in an environment far from their prison cell. The priority would be their full rehabilitation and preparation for their reintegration into society.
The fifth proposal concerns institutions, administered by NGOs, which accommodate prisoners serving the last part of their sentence. Although initial steps have been taken in this area, much remains to be desired.
We therefore propose that additional premises be identified immediately so that more “halfway houses” and “supervised housing” are established in two locations. The government must allocate the necessary funds and provide support to ensure that prisoners have the opportunity, according to established criteria, to spend the last days of their sentence outside of prison.
Prison overcrowding brings the institution to the brink of collapse– Errol Cutajar
Regarding its sixth proposal, the PN notes the continuous efforts at European and international levels to safeguard the interests of the children of detainees.
The government should provide more assistance to the families of detainees.
Unlike Italy or the UK, Malta does not have any laws or social structure that protect children from prisoners and ensure that children do not end up becoming victims of offenses committed by their parents. The PN proposes to introduce “child-parent units”, away from prisons, in conjunction with an action plan for these children, which is the responsibility of the government.
Seventh, the PN is proposing legislation on “electronic tagging” as a condition of bail, as an alternative to preventive arrest. This measure, with appropriate checks and balances, would ensure that bail conditions are met and address concerns about the accused’s flight or contact with key witnesses or victims.
The eighth proposal aims for a better implementation of the parole system, which was introduced by a PN government. It was a step in the right direction, but increased efficiency and speed could lead to a decline in the prison population while helping the inmate to reintegrate into society.
The law on restorative justice has not reached its full potential. As an alternative government, we would examine the possibility of improving the current parole mechanism, not only in the interest of reforming prisoners and their reintegration into society, but also to promote good behavior within the community. jail.
In our ninth and last proposal, we would like the concepts of “old age and health conditional release” to be developed in Malta, as already exists in other countries.
This system would allow courts to take age and physical health into account when imposing a sentence. It also sets up a mechanism allowing a detainee to become eligible for release before the expiration of the full term of the sentence due to a deterioration in his state of health.
The PN’s proposals specifically address the issue of prison overcrowding, which is bringing the establishment to the brink of collapse.
If adopted, the proposals would lead to a reduction in the national prison population and provide more humane living conditions for inmates, a better working environment for guards and staff, and put the public’s mind at rest in the face of violence. situation. control.
Errol Cutajar, lawyer and PN candidate
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