The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

Corradino Correctional Facility ‘diabolical’, prison system needs to be revised – Andrew Azzopardi

Friday, 16 April 2021, 08:41 Last update: about 1 month ago

The Corradino Correctional Facility is “diabolical” and the prison system should be completely revised, Dean of the Faculty of Social Wellbeing Andrew Azzopardi told The Malta Independent.

Azzopardi said that it is “bursting at the seams” as it cannot take in many more people. “A few years ago, we were speaking about 200 to 300 people spending time in jail. It is now full up,” Azzopardi said

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The Dean questioned the mechanisms that judges can utilise when handing down sentences to those convicted. “We need to ask: ‘Why are there more people in jail?’ Is it because we are being more efficient in the way we are investigating, or are there other difficulties, such as judges not having other mechanisms which they can use like tagging, or community service? Are the penalties too harsh when it comes to, for example, certain drug related offences?” Azzopardi questioned.

Azzopardi was interviewed by The Malta Independent. The first part of the interview was published last Sunday.

Azzopardi stated his concerns regarding the Director of the Correctional Facility, who has an “extraordinary amount of power” given to him by law, amongst other issues.

“Firstly, the Correctional Facility is not rehabilitative. Secondly, that place is diabolical. You wouldn’t put a pig in there, let alone a person,” he said.

“Would you put a person in a division where he never sees the light of the sun for a year? Would you put a person in a cell where cockroaches and mice pass by? Is this rehabilitation?” Azzopardi vehemently questioned.

The Dean said that “this place is generating more anger in these people” and so when they finish their sentence and come out into the world, “they end up with a greater feeling of antagonism towards society; angrier and not rehabilitated.”

Azzopardi was asked how the Maltese mentality can change given that a lot of people consider such treatment as something that prisoners deserve.

He noted that there are ways to improve the situation. “Look at the project being handled by the Rehabilitation In Society Malta Foundation (RISe). It is a non-governmental project led by Father Franco and they help people who spend the tail-end of their jail sentence with them” he said.

“I met with these people as well as the prisoners and you can see how great performing proper rehabilitation is. These prisoners would only spend the last year of their sentence, or a bit more, with RISe – just imagine if it was their whole sentence. These people come out rehabilitated and their success rate is almost 100%,” Azzopardi observed.

He criticised Maltese society due to its “hypocritical nature” when it comes to prisoners. "How are we going to stop the anger directed towards prisoners? We are not going to stop it. Because we are vindictive people, we become virgins, we become pure, we become saints. We never evaded tax, we never evaded VAT, we never drove badly, we never put someone in danger,” the Dean scathingly commented.  

“That is what we think we are, and we know it’s not true. We know it’s not. But when we see another person ending up in jail, our instinct is animalistic; to break down these people. So it is the politician's role to take decisions that go against the current.”

Azzopardi was also heavily critical of the Minister for Home Affairs Byron Camilleri. “Minister Byron Camilleri is a huge disappointment. I have great respect towards him as a person and politician, but where the prison comes in, he is a complete failure,” Azzopardi said.  

 

“From 900 prisoners in the prison, 70-80 of them undertake educational programs. How is 10% any good? And what about the other 90%?”

 

Furthermore, he also said that the facility should instead be ditched so that a new structure would be installed where it would be built “not by walls, but by opportunities.”

 

University and post-Covid

Regarding the topic of academia, Azzopardi said that more should be done to “democratise the university’s knowledge”.

“We should not forget that the University of Malta is funded, in its majority, by state funds – not by the government – so it is funded by the people's taxes to help society function better. I believe that more needs to be done in terms of democratising the university's knowledge. We have started down this road, and I hope that we will understand more about what is happening with the coming rectorate, as I am yet to understand what the rector’s plan is,” Azzopardi said. 

“I believe we are entering a very important era; the era of post-covid, the era of technology and the era of AI, and we have to understand a bit more in terms of where we are going to take this university.” 

In terms of what society is to expect in terms of social wellbeing post-Covid, Azzopardi addressed his worries. “Studies are already showing that there are major problems... the pandemic itself is leaving a huge impact on a diverse number of sectors... One of the major problems we are going to face is that professionals will feel burnt out,” Azzopardi noted.  

“We need to be cautious as there are the psychologists, youth workers, social workers, family therapists, doctors, nurses, and so forth, who have been very tired during this period. If we aren’t careful, we will end up seeing people leave their professions as they were working with their engines revved …we can't afford this.” 

Elderly and care homes

Azzopardi also criticised the way Maltese society is dealing with the elderly. “We deposit money and we deposit people as well. We have 10,000 people in institutions, including prison, care homes, children in care, and so forth. There are some who, yes, require a certain degree of care in homes. But we deposit people so that we put our mind 'at ease' instead of carrying the responsibility as a community and a family,” Azzopardi said.

He mused that we have entered into a “vicious cycle” of living a “hectic life for the past 7 to 8 years”.

“We have a society that is extremely neo-liberal, where what counts is your estate, your status and the amount you have in your bank account…you are valued by the amount of money you have, so you never have enough and have to work more,” Azzopardi said.  

When we are working more, we are forgetting and leaving people on the side, Azzopardi remarked. “This is what is happening to the elderly; we are not putting them in care homes simply because they need specialised care, but because it is easier to place them in a home.” 

“We place them into small rooms, split them with persons they do not know instead of them continuing to live in the community and in their own homes where they can enjoy the services of local councils and those of voluntary organisations. This is what we need to invest in, not care homes.” 

Generation X

Azzopardi also made an intriguing remark about Generation X, suggesting that people from that generation should step aside and let younger people take a shot at improving the situation in the country.

He recalled how in the 80s, people used to discuss certain issues which they promised they would change had their generation been in charge.  

“Our generation used to say: 'When we start leading this country, things will be better.' And our generation – those who were born in the 60s and 70s – when we made it to decision-making positions regarding roads, the environment, on the way we speak about politics, the type of politics, and corruption… our generation ended up doing the same," Azzopardi said.  

“We should grab our luggage and our clothes, and vanish for a bit, and leave it in the hands of youths and young adults so that they can start to lead, because we were absolutely not capable of fulfilling what we dreamt of doing. We have lost our chance and we need to step aside and leave it in the hands of the younger people,” Azzopardi said.

 

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