Why Malta needs a humane prison policy for a better society

Graziella Galea: We need to provide a better peace of mind, regarding the control of the whole environment at the prison itself and the country in general

Graziella Galea is a PN candidate and an architect

On 24 May the Nationalist Party, through the cluster which is considering various measures concerning security, launched a number of initiatives in order to reduce the number of prisoners at the Corradino Correctional Facility (CCF), and providing a better environment to prisoners, security guards and workers at the same facility, families of prisoners and the society in general.

But why has the Nationalist Party made several proposals about the CCF?

Let us get an overview of the current situation, in order to better understand the reasoning behind each proposal. Most of the figures refer to March 2021.

  • A prison built in 1842, with some extensions over the past years and an average population of 800 prisoners at any one time. There are 469 cells, out of which 206 have two beds, measuring three metres by two or three metres and 15 dormitories hosting several beds.
  • 278 prisoners, that is one third of the total prison population, are under preventive arrest.
  • During the past three years only 27 persons benefitted from the Rise Foundation programme, whilst in 2020 only, 637 prisoners terminated their jail term.
  • 239 prisoners, that is nearly one third of the total prison population, are receiving treatment against drug addiction. During the past three years a total of 49 prisoners have participated in the Prison Inmates Programme provided by Caritas. In March 2021 only 2% were receiving treatment outside CCF.
  • There are 457 foreign prisoners, hence more than half of the prisoners; these coming from 63 different countries. During the past 5 years only 3 foreign prisoners have been sent to their country to serve their sentence.
  • Electronic tagging is still at its’ initial stages.
  • Lack of protection of minors whose parents or guardians are at CCF.
  • During 2020, there were 73 applications for parole, out of which only 15 prisoners benefitted from the parole system.
  • 39 prisoners are aged 60 or over, with 11 aged more than 71. Others are suffering from serious illnesses.

The nine proposals by the PN are the following:

1. An immediate structural extension to the current Corradino facility catering for 125 new cells. The current facility is catering for nearly double its capacity’, having a negative effect on the prison inmates, security guards and other workers, prisoners’ families and society in general.

2. Preventive arrest should be the exception not the rule and should be applied to the more serious cases, ensuring that it does not prejudice pending cases. A reform in the judicial system is essential, with judicial members appointed solely for criminal cases, eliminating unnecessary delays so that the sentence is given within the shortest time possible. This would be beneficial both to the accused and to the victim.

3. More half way houses and supervised accommodation should be provided for those prisoners who are getting close to the end of their imprisonment, intended at the gradual reintegration of those coming out of prison with the rest of the community. The Government is to provide all necessary means, including finances for this to take place.

4. Drug dependent prisoners are located away from the CCF and provided adequate treatment like the ‘Prison Inmate Programme’ provided by Caritas, which programme should be fully supported and strengthened. Other such programmes of assistance should be provided.

5. Possibly foreign prisoners are to spend their jail term in their own country, taking into consideration the human rights in their country of origin, and hence initiating a focused programme through which this is possible avoiding unnecessary clashes amongst prisoners with different cultures living in the same limited space.

6. The electronic tagging legislation is adequately put in place such that some prisoners carry out their jail term away from CCF. This same concept of electronic tagging should also be put in place for those persons who are on preventive arrest, ensuring that the security of the victim, and society are safeguarded.

7. Child-parent units should be introduced for prisoners who have minors under their care. Children have their rights too and should not be the victims of crimes done by their parents. Hence the legislative system should ensure that the best decisions are taken to protect these children. The PN is proposing to have facilities, even outside prison, such that these host those inmates on whom minors depend, this under careful supervision.

8. A reform of the parole system should be done so that more inmates could benefit from a better rehabilitation and reform system. Various stakeholders should be involved in such reform in order to assess properly the conditions in which parole could be granted.

9. The concept of parole should be extended in specific cases considering the age of the prisoner and also any health issues that the prisoner may be suffering from.

The current local situation needs to be improved, considering also the exaggerated population of same. Prisoners are to have humane conditions within the prison and are prepared to face the world outside, after the end of the detention period.

Every inmate has a family which he/she forms part of and that needs support. Victims of crimes have a right for protection and hence each proposal caters for this to be ensured.

Security guards and other workers are to have a working atmosphere in which they do not continuously feel threatened or at risk.

We need to provide a better peace of mind, regarding the control of the whole environment at the prison itself and the country in general.    

Finally, what we all want is to have a better society.