A report into practices at Corradino prison proposes a major overhaul of Alex Dalli's regime.
Published on Friday following a four-month inquiry, the report calls on the authorities to build new facilities, reduce overcrowding, increase attentiveness to inmates' suicidal thoughts and mental health, focus on rehabilitation and crack down on excessive punishment.
Led by psychiatrist Anton Grech, the inquiry was tasked with looking into internal prison procedures, following a series of deaths behind bars.
The inquiry board acknowledged that the current prison system could potentially allow top officials to abuse their power and inflict unjust punishment on inmates.
It also insisted that solitary confinement should only be executed on the order of a court.
There have been allegations that prison authorities, mainly former director Alex Dalli, were abusing this practice and using it haphazardly as a form of punishment.
Former inmates have claimed they were subjected to unjust confinement.
The report says that decisions on how long inmates are locked up currently rest in the hands of the prison director and a number of other officials, and that these practices go against prison rules.
The inquiry therefore recommends the creation of a disciplinary board that would decide on disciplinary measures. The board would include a mental health professional.
The report was published on Friday afternoon, after Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri announced that Dalli will not be reinstated as prison director and that the Correctional Services Agency intends to take on the inquiry's recommendations.
Overcrowding in prison
The report also lambasts prison overcrowding and frowns upon the way inmates are mixed together irrespective of whether they are arrested or sentenced.
The inquiry found that frequently, inmates who had just been admitted for the first time, under arrest, would find themselves spending the first days in prison in division 6, where seasoned criminals serving long sentences are usually transferred as punishment for unruly behaviour.
"It is not good practice that new inmates end up in such a division," the report says.
The system also fails to separate inmates who are progressing at different rates in their rehabilitation process.
For this reason, the board recommended that a rehabilitation centre be built within the confines of prison and that the prison be divided into a high, medium and low security areas, to cater for the different convictions of inmates.
It suggests specialised rehabilitation programmes for drug users, sex offenders and inmates with anger management problems, as well as a life skills program and work-oriented programs, among others.
The inquiry board goes so far as to recommend a halfway house which operates as an open prison designed to help inmates re-integrate in society.
It notes that medical professionals are not consulted on disciplinary measures and that while inmates are punished for bad behaviour, there is no form of reward for good behaviour.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals are to be included in the decision-making process from the moment each inmate is admitted inside the facility, it recommends.
They are also to be provided with more resources and equipment and consulted on decisions about when and to what divisions inmates are to be transferred, warning that excessive displacement of inmates could be harmful to them.
The increased presence of mental health professionals will help address suicide in prison, according to the board.
What about suicide?
The recommendations clearly address the latest string of suicides and alleged inmate mistreatment in prison, but stops short of making direct references to director Alex Dalli, his officials or any of the particular incidents and suicides that sparked the inquiry in the first place.
It recommends that all inmates be examined psychologically for signs of anxiety, mental distress or suicidal thoughts, a procedure which, according to the report, is not practised with all the inmates that are admitted to Corradino.
The board acknowledges that a number of crucial measures are already in place. Prison authorities are already conducting medical evaluations, a core needs assessment and basic care plans, among others.
However, the facility needs a comprehensive management approach for the prevention of suicide and must conduct psychological screening of each inmate upon admission.
It said staff needs more training and new inmates require special mental health attention.
Progress under Dalli in some areas
The report starts by recognising that the Correctional Facility made some significant improvements under Alex Dalli's watch.
"Care plans for all inmates were badly needed, and prison authorities introduced care plan coordinators who addressed the problem extensively," the report said.
"The agency recruited more medical, social and psychiatric staff and it clamped down on smuggling of illicit objects, also by introducing new security equipment.
"This report also confirms there is a drug-free culture inside the Corradino Correctional Facility."
The board was led by leading psychiatrist professor Anton Grech and included medical doctor George Grech and academic Janice Formosa Pace.
Dalli suspended himself last month in the wake of harsh criticism over his unorthodox methods of discipline, after another inmate died by suicide while behind bars.
In a press conference on Friday, Minister Camilleri confirmed that he was appointing a new commissioner for prisoners' rights and development, and that he was granting more power to an independent monitoring board, which would watch over prison administration continuously and suggest relevant upgrades to the system.