Michael Farrugia, Minister for Home Affairs and National Security

The Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security has embarked on a full-blown assessment of the services and facilities being offered in the rehabilitation of inmates at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

A number of reports have been compiled over the last four years. A group of persons with particular knowledge of the prison setting and others who had worked in the social sector were brought on board. This team sought all the information needed of every aspect in the running of the facility. Their assignment was not just to identify the faults but to come forward with a number of proposals.

Six months ago we started implementing the first set of proposed changes related to difference in management structure, the much needed discipline and the longstanding need for eradication of preferential treatment between inmates.

The ways of smuggling drugs into the prison were identified, and through intelligence, decisions were taken to curb their illicit smuggling. At the moment, at committee stage in Parliament, we are also discussing a Bill that makes all synthetic drugs and their derivatives illegal. This way the previous lacunae related to illicit drugs will be closed once and for all.

Body scanners are being introduced. These scanners will stop all the need for strip searches on suspected individuals trying to get illicit items into the prison.

We believe that every service given should improve. We are starting with different daily meals from which inmates can choose what they want to eat the following day.

Discipline and improved services have to be coupled with rehabilitation. We want inmates to be given all the possibility to come out of the facility and back into society with certificates that can give them a job in no time.

Three years ago, I had entered into a public social partnership with Rise, an NGO that gives the opportunity for well-behaved inmates to spend their last months of their imprisonment out in the community. They are given the opportunity to work, and at the same time they are given intensive rehabilitation and psychological preparation to go back into society as good citizens.

Three months ago, I requested a prison brief that gives an in-depth situation of the inmates in the facility. This brief is being evaluated before one takes the next step. Following their evaluation, decisions on the infrastructure of the facility will be taken.

Besides, experts have to evaluate whether this 19th-century building is still suitable to cater for today’s needs. The moment this decision is taken in the coming weeks, we proceed to a design brief before the actual design is carried out. If such a decision leads to a new facility, the government will do its utmost to perform all that it takes.

Francis Zammit Dimech, Nationalist Party member of the European Parliament

Changing the current correctional facility or building a new one altogether will not necessarily address the administrative issues present at the Corradino Correctional Facility.

One should not focus on whether it is essential to have another correctional facility. Rather, one should address the need of a prison reform policy, rebuild the current administrative system, plan specialised training for correctional officers and ensure that the time spent serving a sentence in prison adequately addresses the needs of inmates.

It is generally agreed that another correctional facility may offer new, cleaner and better environmental conditions for the inmates but if the needs of the inmate are not addressed holistically, then there is little that one can expect from the inmates post release.

Correctional policy is not a matter of brick and mortar

A reform policy should better address life after incarceration, reintegration into society, family bonding, housing and employment. All this is presently addressed in different ways, however much still needs to be done. The current rate of recidivism is still high indicating the urgent need of a reform policy. 

It is only once the internal operations of the facility are addressed that one should think about rebuilding another correctional facility offering supportive and educational services for the inmate and his family. The set-up of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre within the corrective facility may help to address drug and alcohol related crimes and ensure that inmates with addiction problems are offered the support and education required to overcome their addiction.

Within a new facility one could also include a centre for administrative detainees and ensure that they are given the essential support to regularise their legal status in Malta.

A building with three separate divisions housing criminal inmates, administrative detainees and drug and alcohol addicts could indeed prove to be a step forward towards a healthy reform policy. 

The needs of the inmate’s family and children should also be paramount in our considerations. A visiting centre should be designed so as to ensure that visits are held in a homey and warm environment.

In conclusion, yes, a new correctional facility would indeed by a priority, but let us be very clear that correctional policy is not a matter of brick and mortar, but a matter of a holistic policy that puts the societal objectives of reformation and rehabilitation of the detainee and the support for his family at the very centre of all our efforts, starting from the enhancement of the internal operations within the existing facilities.

Martin Cauchi Inglott, Democratic Party MEP candidate

The Corradino Correctional Facilities (CCF) were neglected for many years, and it has now become a major political challenge to re-establish the institution. But a new administration appears to be implementing change, which is dependent on full government backing.

All operations within the CCF complex must be conducted through a disciplined regime of rigorous routine. Discipline is essential to ensure the CCF is able to apply punishment and maintain order by controlling the hardship of living in confined spaces. Discipline is also crucial to assure safety of both inmates and prison officials alike as it prevents fights, drug abuse and noise pollution. Inmates failing to toe the line must face consequences such as loss of privileges, but good behaviour should be rewarded with additional privileges such as extra visits.

CCF homes criminals but other individuals too, who may have strayed due to particular circumstances. For example, someone killing a person by accident, may finding himself in CCF; and others going through tough patches could steal to make ends meet, as is the case with drug addicts.

It is essential that inmates are, consequently, segregated from one another according to the crime committed to avoid future crimes. Taking it a step further, one could even argue that certain crimes may not be worthy of imprisonment, but home confinement coupled with community work.

CCF’s purpose is also to reform inmates, and in order to facilitate this process, CCF have professionals at its disposition, but the institution appears inadequately staffed. NGOs and even private individuals should be, consequently, encouraged to support the permanent staff once due diligence has been completed. Every effort must also be made to make inmates productive as this will kill monotony and any ensuing bad habits. In this vein, inmate work is to be encouraged even using out-of-the box ideas. Inmates should be also offered possibilities to study, as is the case, even outside the CCF premises at Mcast, as this serves as a stepping stone to reintegration later in society.

Prior to release, inmates need to be taught community and social skills. This is where the Project for Rehabilitation in Society comes into play, allowing prisoners to start adjusting to freedom by providing employment outside the CCF boundary. The project avoids that sudden shock of freedom upon release, thereby reducing the rate of recidivism.

Though facing a huge challenge, the new administration appears to be making headway in all the areas mentioned above, but the reality remains that CCF requires a major facelift as the facilities are accommodating some 630 inmates when CCF’s capacity is 450.

PD is all for supporting the prioritisation of our correctional facilities to ensure a better future for all those who may have strayed.

If you would like to put any questions to the parties in Parliament send an e-mail marked clearly Question Time to editor@timesofmalta.com.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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