[WATCH] Coronavirus: Peppi Azzopardi urges action to reduce overcrowding risk in prison

Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi says vulnerable prisoners and those who have a few months left of their sentence should be released at home to reduce overcrowding

Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi sounds warning on overcrowded prison and says some inmates should be released to avoid unnecessary risk for prisoners and officials
Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi sounds warning on overcrowded prison and says some inmates should be released to avoid unnecessary risk for prisoners and officials

Overcrowding at the Corradino Correctional Facility poses a major risk for inmates and employees if the coronavirus makes it behind the prison walls, Peppi Azzopardi has warned.

The Xarabank presenter has appealed for prisoners who are elderly, vulnerable and with a few months of jail time left to be released at home.

Azzopardi said overcrowding in prison makes it very difficult for inmates to obey social distancing and will be a major risk factor if Covid-19 breaks out inside the facility.

Releasing prisoners would help reduce overcrowding, a measure already adopted in some countries such as the UK.

In his appeal, Azzopardi said that prisoners released to their home could be electronically tagged for peace of mind.

And in those cases where an inmate has no home to go to, Azzopardi said that he was assured by Archbishop Charles Scicluna that the church agency, Caritas, would provide shelter if government provided security and screening of inmates.

READ ALSO: Corradino prison staff start week-long shifts to reduce Covid-19 risks

According to information tabled in Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri last month, the Corradino Correctional Facility housed 786 inmates of which 275 were expected to finish their sentence this year.

In January, Camilleri had also told Parliament that there were 200 prison cells at the facility where more than one inmate where being kept. Each prison cell is three metres by three metres, and in some instances even smaller – three metres by two metres.

 “Why are we keeping vulnerable people in prison? Why are we running the risk of these people getting sick and passing it on to other inmates and officers? Let us do like other countries have done… Britain has released 5,000 prisoners, Iran has released 80,000 inmates,” Azzopardi said.

The Correctional Facility has been scaling up its preparedness to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to the inmate population. In the latest move, prison officials will be moving in for one-week shifts by sleeping inside the facility to reduce the frequency of movement with the outside.

Visits by relatives have been curbed and face masks distributed and hand sanitiser distributed across the facility.

However, the risk of contagion remains since prison guards are also out and about in the community.

So far, none of the inmates or their relatives have tested positive for Covid-19 but concern is mounting after the situation that developed inside the migrant open centre at Hal Far, where eight people had the virus and the whole place has been placed under lockdown.

More in National