New prison boss Robert Brincau has tall order after Dalli departure

NGOs send clear message to new prison boss: ‘Make Corradino more accessible to experts and the media’

CCF director Robert Brincau
CCF director Robert Brincau

The former prison director Col. Alex Dalli was booted out after the 14th prison death marred his disastrous tenure as Corradino Correctional Facility (CCF) boss.

35-year-old Arun Josè was found dead in his cell at around 6:30am during the prison guard handover on Wednesday 10 September.

After news broke of the suicide, Dalli was reported to have suspended himself, with the home affairs ministry appointing Red Cross chief Robert Brincau as prison CEO. Dalli’s suspension went into immediate effect after a meeting between the prison chief and the Minister Byron Camilleri.

A ministry spokesperson told this newspaper that Dalli is currently suspended on half-pay. “Mr Dalli is no longer involved in the management and day-to-day running of the Correctional Services Agency,” she said.

Robert Brincau was previously heading the Detention Services Unit – the closed detention centre for irregular migrants – and during his time in the role had started implementing a number of changes, particularly in the welfare and security sectors.

He acquired managerial experience and served for many years within the International Red Cross Society where, as director with responsibility for the society’s operations, ran a number of emergency humanitarian operations.

In a brief comment to this newspaper, Brincau said he will try to approach the job from a different perspective. “We will try to look at things from a different angle.”

He said it would be premature to comment further so early into his appointment.

Dalli’s strict regime for prisoners were widely criticised by NGOs.

Peppi Azzopardi, a foremost critic of the former prison chief said Brincau should be allowed to carry out the changes he needed. “The people who served under Dalli allowed those injustices to happen, and they too need to go. They approved of his tactics,” he said.

Azzopardi also said Brincau should be open to the press and the media, unlike his predecessor. “It can only benefit him.” 

The former Xarabank presenter also recalled his teaching days, when Brincau was his student.  “What struck me about him is that when he saw students eating their lunch... he would point out the children that didn’t have something to eat,” he said. “I don’t think he lost those values; they were ingrained within him, and I hope he keeps them at heart when he starts working in prison.”

“He still calls me ‘sir’,” Azzopardi said jokingly. “Now I have to call him ‘sir’, and I have no issue with that.”

Robert Fenech from Moviment Graffitti said Brincau’s first order of business should be that of re-opening the CCF to the media and the NGOs. “Prison should not be a fortress.”

He also said big reforms are needed within Malta’s prison system. “The system of cruelty has to go. People need to get what they deserve, and that is justice. Prison should not be a death sentence,” he said.

Neil Falzon, director at Aditus, said the NGO would like to see dignified access to inmates by lawyers, NGOs and other professionals. “Much work needs to be done to ensure appropriate protection of vulnerable inmates. We would also like to see the introduction of proper employment and educational opportunities, as the present options are not quite humane,” he said.

While welcoming the new appointment, which came “far too late”, Falzon said the CCF former director did not receive the condemnation “we would have liked the ministry to adopt”.

“The first thing that needs to be done is to send a clear message to all inmates, their families, staff, and the community that CCF is no longer unsafe: that mysterious deaths in prison are a thing of the past.

“Secondly, we recommend full and transparent cooperation with any investigation and inquiry that is or will be happening at CCF.”

Falzon said the new management needs to look at all CCF procedures, rules and operational methods in order to identify what is wrong with the system in order to start working on bringing back “order, respect and humanity.”

“Finally, seek and obtain all the support available from international and European expert organisations, local NGOs and other experts,” he said.