Prison inmates are suffering “inhumane treatment” due to the “unbearable heat” that builds up in their cells during the hot summer months, according to the dean of the university’s social well-being faculty who called on the authorities to address the situation.

The assessment of Andrew Azzopardi, who heads the faculty at the University of Malta, was backed by NGOs Caritas and Mid-Dlam Għad-Dawl, which work to support the well-being of inmates and former inmates at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

In an open letter to members of parliament, Azzopardi called for action to alleviate the heat in some cells, where temperatures soar above 30 degrees.

He said there was little ventilation in some areas and called on the authorities to remedy the situation.

Azzopardi listed possible measures that included installing air conditioners or other cooling systems, treating roofs to minimise heat, giving inmates cold water at night and allowing them to spend more time in cooler areas during heatwaves. 

George Busuttil, from Mid-Dlam Għad-Dawl, agreed that heat was a problem.

'Issue is bigger, not about installing AC'

“But I think the issue is bigger. This is not about installing air conditioning.

“I’ve been saying that the building is not fit for purpose and needs to be demolished and rebuilt,” he said.

The Corradino Correction Facility, located in Paola, dates back to 1842 with additions constructed over the years.

“The punishment inmates are facing is the lack of freedom. Just because they are in prison  does not mean they should be treated inhumanely. We live in a civil society and our prison should reflect that,” he said.

A Caritas spokesperson said that, overall, inmates report positive changes: food quality has improved, the drug situation remains under control and inmates feel they are listened to.

“However, heat remains a significant challenge and a cooling system is needed. Those in divisions most exposed to the sun are especially vulnerable to extreme heat,” the spokesperson said.

Inmates reported that box fans are available but that they were less effective than regular fans and options for larger box fans were also being offered. Caritas said. Icebox fans are also being tried out.

'Long-term project needed'

“Such a measure appears to have potential to alleviate the situation of extreme heat. The suggestion of delaying evening lockdown times in the absence of air conditioning to help cope with the heat is valid. Rules around lockdown times may need to be revisited at least in extreme heat situations,” a spokesperson said.

In the context of possible heat spells over summer, the Social Care Standards Authority urged all residential services to prepare for heat waves by setting up cooling areas in non-air-conditioned residences and even installing generators in case of power outages, especially to protect those who are physically vulnerable to heat stress, Caritas added.

In a statement, the PN backed the measures suggested by Azzopardi but also said a long-term project is needed to tackle infrastructure at the prison.

Questions have been sent to the home affairs ministry.

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