Updated 6.15pm with PN's comments

Two prison wardens have been suspended and will be charged in court following a magisterial inquiry into a suicide by an inmate.

In a statement, the Home Affairs Ministry said that two officials would be summoned to court over “crimes of an involuntary nature".

According to the criminal code, involuntary homicide carries a maximum prison term of four years or a fine of €11,000.

The ministry said that the magistrate had found shortcomings with regards to two correctional officials.

Both employees have been suspended and will be subject to procedures before the Public Service Commission, the ministry said.  

Suicide attempt

A 29-year-old inmate at Corradino Correctional Facility died on June 4 almost three weeks after she was found unconscious in her cell in what prison officials had at the time described as a suicide attempt. 

The woman was hospitalised in the early morning of May 16 after being given first aid by doctors and nurses at the prison. 

She had been serving a two-year jail term after admitting to six counts of fraud and theft last February. She also had previous suspended sentences extended for another four years.

The death sparked anger from different quarters, including a passionate reaction by TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi who lashed out at the prison authorities.

The prison authorities were aware that the inmate wanted to take her life, and yet failed to do anything about it, the Xarabank presenter charged in a fiery post uploaded on social media. 

In reply to a number of questions by Times of Malta, the agency for correctional services had shortly after the woman’s death categorically denied that she was kept in solitary confinement.

They said that when the prisoner was admitted to the Corradino Correctional Facility, she met with the agency’s professionals to map out her care plan.

There has been strong criticism of the prison management, after a string of deaths in the Paola facility. 

Shortly after the female inmate died, another prisoner, Colin Galea, died eight days after his attempted suicide sparked an inquiry into mental health procedures at the prison. 

His cellmate, Anthony Borg, also told Times of Malta that inmates were being pushed to the brink by the vindictive behaviour of prison warders. 

Call for public inqury

Reacting to the latest developments, Peppi Azzopardi said he and Andrew Azzopardi, the Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, were calling for a public inquiry to establish whether the state could have "avoided this tragedy".

"It is clear that the responsibility lies with the prison authorities,"he said.

"These charges reflect the systematic cruelty with which Director Alex Dalli runs the prison. The system terrorises both prisoners and wardens."

He said the magisterial inquiry should be made public immediately, along with the other inquiries into prison deaths. 

"We have the right to know what is happening inside prison," he said.

Minister weak with director - PN

The PN meanwhile welcomed the criminal proceedings but said this was not enough. 

"The issue needs to be addressed top-down. While officials will answer questions about their behaviour in court, higher-ranking officials - including the prison director - should shoulder responsibility for what is going on in prison," the party said in a statement.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri too should shoulder responsibility, as he remains weak with the director, the party added. 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us