A prison notice that declared the role of prison is "to teach fear" was removed at the request of home affairs minister Byron Camilleri shortly after he assumed his role last year.

The notice, signed by prison director Alex Dalli in 2018, encouraged correctional officers to teach fear, suggesting violence and crime could only be curbed with intimidation.

Dalli's authoritarian style of leadership has been heavily criticised, with his methods reportedly including a 'punishment chair' being used to restrain prisoners.

Reacting to the note, which was revealed last month, Camilleri said he took immediate action to remove it when he was appointed home affairs minister in January 2020.

“I learned of the existence of this notice in my first few days as home affairs minister, and I had taken steps to show I disagreed with the content of this notice," he said.

The minister then insisted that the notice “does not take away anything from the great work done in prison over the last few years".

Home affairs minister Byron Camilleri takes comments after a press conference. Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

“The number of rehabilitation professionals has increased and there has been a massive investment in rehabilitation,” he said.

“Not only have we been working on prisoner rehabilitation within the facility, but we have also signed an agreement with Mid-Dlamad-Dawl foundation to make sure the work we do extends to their families,” he added.

The foundation, which focuses on prisoner re-integration as well as providing support within the prison, has recently received €500,000 in funding, allocated with the intent of supporting families of prisoners, a spokesperson of the minister has previously said.

Camilleri also highlighted how the ministry needs to intervene in successive generations of offenders, pointing out that there were cases in which as much as five generations within the same family all served prison sentences.

The prison notice, dated 2018, was removed last year. Photo: FacebookThe prison notice, dated 2018, was removed last year. Photo: Facebook

Media access

Camilleri also defended his administration’s handling of media access to the prison, stating that journalists had been allowed to visit.

“I was the first minister who approved protocols related to media presence in the prison. Prison is a place in which security must be maintained, therefore when anyone enters prison security protocols must be kept in place,” he said.

“If you want to talk to prisoners, not only can journalists do so but also every other person in this room,” Camilleri insisted when pressed to explain why access to media was only allowed under administrative supervision.

When asked about why Malta’s standing within Transparency International’s annual index has regressed to the country being labelled a "defective democracy", the minister blamed the opposition.

“Probably, the international organisations you mentioned must have learned that the opposition’s leader has tax problems, maybe it has something to do with that,” Camilleri quipped when the report was mentioned.

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