The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

Updated (2): Two prison officials to be charged over inmate’s attempted suicide

Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 17:06 Last update: about 5 days ago

Two prison officials are set to be charged by police over an inmate’s attempted suicide at the correctional facility. 

The Minister for Home Affairs Byron Camilleri announced on Wednesday that he had been notified by police that it would be charging to correctional officers by citation before the courts over “crimes of an involuntary nature.” 

The charges are in connection with a magisterial inquiry which was opened into an attempted suicide of an inmate on 16 June this year at the Corradino Correctional Facility. 

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The inmate - a 29-year-old woman - passed away in hospital some weeks later. Prison authorities insisted that she was never on suicide watch and had never expressed the desire to take her own life.

The inquiring magistrate however found shortcomings in the behaviour of the two officers, the ministry said. 

The Ministry said that the two officials have been suspended with immediate effect and are also now subject to proceedings before the Commission for Public Service. 

The Ministry has also asked the Attorney General for a copy of the procès-verbal of the case. 

13 prisoners have died inside Corradino Correctional Facility since 2018 - the year in which the controversial figure Colonel Alex Dalli took over leadership of the facility.  The most recent inmate to die was Colin Galea, who also passed away days after a suicide attempt in prison last August.

The incident had led to an inquiry being launched, and a board was set up to evaluate prison procedures. Among other things, the board will scrutinise the procedures at the prison in their assessment of the mental and physical wellbeing of the inmates who would have just entered prison, and study the regulations imposed by the Correctional Services Agency.

 

PN reaction

Reacting to the latest developments, the Nationalist Party welcomed the criminal proceedings but said this was not enough.

It reiterated its call to address the problem within the prison from top to bottom, saying that “Minister Byron Camilleri remains weak with the prison director.”

This is another confirmation of the gravity of the situation within Malta’s prison, the party said.

The PN highlighted that “the problem in prison should be addressed by holding junior officials accountable for their actions in court. High-ranking officials and the director of the prison should shoulder responsibility for what has happened and is still happening in prison.  Above all, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri should shoulder responsibility as well, as he remains weak with the director.”

 

Call for public inquiry

In a statement, university dean Andrew Azzopardi and broadcaster Peppi Azzopardi called for a public inquiry to establish whether the inmate’s death could have been prevented.

They also called for the immediate publication of all inquiries into prison suicides.

They said that, while they did not want to pass judgment on this particular case, this tragedy should not only be carried by the two prison officials, “because the prison leadership is terrorising both inmates and officers.”

They provided a list of incidents that took place at the prison over the past months, arguing that the situation has been bad for many months.

“This inquiry should lead this terror regime to have the decency to listen and act in an expedited manner so that we do not have other victims.”

The prison should not remain a place of fear and threats, but rather become a place of rehabilitation that prepares you for the world outside, they said.

 

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