Prison capacity strained, few work placements for inmates, NAO finds

Prison rehabilitative efforts “few and somewhat malleable” when compared to discipline and security provisions

Malta’s law do not impose sufficient obligations on the Correctional Services Agency for an effective system of rehabilitation at Corradino Correctional Facility, the National Audit Office has found.

The requirements calling for rehabilitative efforts in Maltese legislation were “few and somewhat malleable” when compared to discipline and security, leaving “care and reintegration initiatives in a situation in which they have to compete with, rather than complement, stronger legal obligations such as those relating to discipline and good order.”

Auditor General Charles Deguara presented a performance audit report to Speaker of the House of Representatives Anġlu Farrugia, reviewing the operations of the Correctional Services Agency (CSA) at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

While significant efforts were made in recent years to design care plans for CCF’s inmates, care and reintegration initiatives were still not reaching the entire prison population.

“This is evident through the low number of work placements, both inside and outside the facility, and educational opportunities being provided to inmates... these opportunities are too limited to be considered an adequate prison-wide effort towards rehabilitation through work and education.”

The NAO found a general sense of order, organisation and cleanliness throughout CCF, as well as a notable recent infrastructural improvement. “While mostly noting the facility’s generally unobjectionable state of repair, this Office did however identify some shortcomings in this respect which may be unduly compounding, though not to a critical extent, the already intrinsically difficult nature of incarceration.”

Malta’s prison’s physical capacity was also found to be significantly strained, bringing about “obvious negative consequences, particularly on security, hygiene and privacy.”

Most interviewed stakeholders identified overcrowding as one of the most pressing challenges within CCF, which does not have sufficient physical room to detain the current number of inmates adequately.

It is now common practice that cells are shared, rather than occupied by a single prisoner. To address the lack of space, CSA also had to resort to dormitories which would house a larger number of prisoners. One of five dormitories inspected by the NAO was set up due to a spike of admissions, mainly inmates serving short sentences of less than one year.

During its fieldwork, the audit team visited this division twice. In the first instance it was noted that this division was overcrowded within a relatively small area, with the audit team being informed that some 140 inmates were being housed at the time. These inmates were afforded individual beds, though these, in some occasions, were stacked in a three-tier bunk bed setup.

While the division featured an adequately sized outdoor recreational area, the indoor space of the dormitory was very restricted for the number of inmates it housed, thereby affording close to no personal space to each individual. The audit team also noted that, despite that the division was clean, noticeable body-odour could be detected. The division in fact had only one shower cubical and water closet. The NAO said this was obviously insufficient for such a large number of inmates to adequately maintain good personal hygiene.

When this division was inspected again around six weeks after the first inspection, a noticeable decrease came about as cells became available in other divisions.

There is a plan to increase prison capacity by an additional 100 cells and that an area has been identified within the existing CCF grounds whereby a new complex of cells can be constructed. “Given that CSA has to detain all individuals who are ordered to be incarcerated by the Courts of Law, it has no other option but to constantly find practical and workable solutions to house all prisoners within the limited physical space it is afforded by the facility itself.”

While the complement of correctional officers and care and reintegration professionals increased in recent years, both staff segments fall short of targeted complement.

The NAO said there was no centralised electronic information system within CCF, despite an agreement with a third-party provider for an Offenders Management System.