Camilleri breaks silence, will review prison induction and mental health assessment for inmates

Home Affairs Minister makes no reference to Colin Galea death in statement he issued on Facebook

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has broken his silence, five days after the death of prison inmate Colin Galea, for which an internal inquiry was launched since his attempted suicide two weeks ago.

In a Facebook statement, Camilleri said that the board carrying out the inquiry into the death of Galea will be revising mental and physical assessment for prison inmates. He added nothing new to what has transpired since the death of the prison inmate.

Galea, 30, died earlier in the week, eight days after an attempted suicide at Corradino prison, the 13th death by a CCF inmate. His death prompted renewed calls for the removal of CCF head Lt. Col. Alex Dalli, who is accused of having ‘militarised’ the prisons with a culture of punishment.

His statement comes on the same day that a coalition of NGOs demanded radical reform at Corradino.

“I’m ready to work with everyone, with critics of the system and mine personally… I often have to hold back from commenting, despite my access to the true facts, because I have a greater responsibility that such personal information does not become public,” Camilleri said, without referring specifically to Colin Galea, whose death he only mentioned in connection with the ongoing internal inquiry.

“I believe in a discussion based on facts, of respect towards the institutions which seem to be ignored when their judgement falls out of favour,” Camilleri said.

Shadow minister Beppe Fenech Adami accused Camilleri of being “completely detached from the reality of the precarious situation within the prisons”, saying Camilleri had not offered any apology to the families of the inmates or held himself accountable for the deaths inside CCF.

“Byron Camilleri chose to defend the prison director, under whom all these deaths have occurred and defended the current system that is causing all these deaths. Camilleri has no authority to change the defective prison system and therefore he has to shoulder the political responsibility for all the deaths and problems inside the prison walls.”

Camilleri said he has appointed a board that will evaluate the internal procedures employed by the Correctional Services Agency, to scrutinise prison assessments for physical and mental health, induction rules, suicide prevention measures, and prison rehabilitation services.

Camilleri said he saw Corradino as a place of greater order than it ever was, but that suffered from an explosion in prison population that has placed greater pressure on the facility, with the added problem of synthetic drugs finding their way into the premises. “It is essential we do not return to the laissez-faire system that there was previously.”

A wide cross-section of civil society and NGOs have condemned what they called the “ongoing uncertainty” at the Corradino prisons. NGOs such as Aditus, the anti-poverty forum, the national youth council KNZ, gay rights movement MGRM, and Moviment Graffitti, called for a long-term and deep-rooted review of current practices, and a radical reform to a culture of punishment, retribution and disparagement inside the Maltese prisons under the present leadership of Lt. Col. Alexander Dalli. They also called for the institution of an Ombudsman for Prison and Probation.