Prison’s solitary confinement division will be retained throughout pandemic

Maligned division used for punishing CCF inmates will keep on being used to quarantine incoming inmates

There are no plans for the removal of Division 6 inside Corradino Correctional Facility, as it is being used as a quarantine facility, the home affairs minister said.

The maximum security facility, often used as a punitive measure for solitary confinement, is being used as a quarantine facility to isolate incoming prisoners. The University of Malta academic Prof. Andrew Azzopardi said the division is being used to “break newcomers in” before moving them out to another division.

But they are also being subjected to 23 hours inside their cells, a measure that is akin to solitary confinement measures that are universally condemned. Camilleri did not deny the conditions. “Division six is used for quarantine – every prisoner entering carries out 15 days of quarantine. If we don't do this, we risk having an explosion of COVID-19 in prison,” the minister said. “Until now, over the past few months, the situation in prison in terms of COVID-19 has been excellent – we cannot erase this work. The need for quarantine is there, and will continue to be there until COVID-19 passes.”

MaltaToday is informed that Division 6 is employed for the disciplining of unruly inmates, and to prevent self-harm.

Camilleri said the absolute majority of COVID-19 cases at Corradino were those who had just entered prison or who had arrived a few days earlier, necessitating the need for quarantine procedures.

Division 6, which had previously been closed down, had been condemned by the UN’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture over its “simply appalling” material conditions, where single-occupancy cells were found to be accommodating two inmates back in 2013. The wing was criticised for having had poor access to natural light, or artificial lighting and ventilation. Cells were then only equipped with one bed and another mattress, placed on the floor, and an unpartitioned floor toilet.”

In the UK, the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke warned that prisoners locked in their cells for 23 hours a day under COVID-19 restrictions was dangerous: “We cannot surely have a position where we say that the only way to run a safe and decent prison is to lock prisoners up in conditions that amount to solitary confinement.”