‘Decadence within justice system is deplorable’ – Labour

Lack of management, lack of inquiries, shortage of prison wardens and the suggestion of automatic parole for relapsers shows a “decadence” in the justice system which is extremely worrying, Labour MP Michael Falzon said.

Opposition spokesman for justice and home affairs Michael Falzon has criticized the situation inside Corradino Correctional Facility and the judicial system, decrying it as deplorable and worrying.

“The lack of management and structure at the prisons is overwhelming,” Falzon said, addressing a press conference outside the CCF in Paola.

Falzon cited the fact that the CCF only had an ‘acting’ director as proof of this of the state of affairs inside CCF, adding that the system inside the prison depended solely on the director.

Falzon criticized how inquiries take years to conclude, and questions still remain unanswered over a prisoner who allegedly died of an overdose a year ago at CCF, and allegations that a prisoner had been caught cultivating cannabis in his cell.

“It’s shameful that in 2011, Malta’s forensic team isn’t equipped to carry out its own investigations but has to wait for three weeks to confirm whether the material found in the prisoner’s cell was in fact cannabis,” Falzon said.

“Moreover, nothing has been done on the call by the CCF’s acting director over the request for more prison wardens. Currently, the ratio of wardens to prisoners in certain wards is of one or two wardens for every 50 prisoners.”

He added that the short-staffed team has to work excessive hours to make up for the lack of wardens, whilst no wardens have been recruited since 2005: “Whilst the number of prison wardens has gone down since then, the population at the prisons increased drastically.”

According to a parliamentary question the last intake of prison wardens was in May 2005, whilst during the last five years 38 wardens have terminated their employment.

Falzon reiterated that it was worrying that nothing is being done over claims and allegations of the easy access to drugs in prison. “It was an admission by the government itself to the gravity of the situation when it was suggested that prisoners who underwent drug rehabilitation became eligible for parole if caught a second time.”

Falzon said this goes to show that government is fully aware of the drug situation at the prisons but fails to act on it.

Whilst recalling the legal anomaly created over the access of a lawyer during interrogation, Falzon claimed that trials are being postponed for fear that an accused might be released of his charges as no lawyer would have been present during the interrogation.

He also criticized the police authorities after it was revealed in court that charge sheets against a person accused of trafficking drugs at Mount Carmel Hospital had been lost. “How did they get lost and who’s going to shoulder responsibility over the incident,” he asked, adding that it should be looked into whether the charge sheets had been “removed”.

The situation at CCF is not treated seriously, the Labour MP said. He recalled how a prison warden who was caught stealing from the visitors’ lockers was simply transferred to another location.

Falzon said the lack of motivation and management at the police force could be heavily felt, and it was suffering a “brain drain”. “A number of graduates are leaving the police force due to the apathy in the system,” he said.

Referring to the Safi riots, Falzon said the chain of command was not clear and he questioned whether the soldiers and police were really prepared for such situations. He added that government should also look into the claims of abuse and shows of arrogance from certain army officials over the immigrants.

Talking on Paceville, Falzon said a special team, trained over crowd control, should be responsible of the area. He said, it is unheard of that police officers are sent on duty to Paceville simply as a “punishment”. He also criticized the location of the police station which was far away from the centre.

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