By Peter Stevenson
THE ALREADY over-full Nicosia Central Prisons is becoming even more crowded as the financial crisis worsens and more people are being jailed for non-payment of fines and other debts.
Prison Governor Giorgos Tryfonides told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that efforts were being made to help such convicts pay off their debts in instalments.
“We are trying our best to make plans for payment of debt so an arrangement can be made with the attorney-general to postpone any punishment as long as the instalment is accepted by the plaintiff,” he said.
Due to the crisis, the number of people facing jail for financial reasons is on the rise compared to other years, Tryfonides said, adding on certain days up to five people might be imprisoned for similar offences.
“The Central Prisons in cooperation with the attorney-general are making certain arrangements to prevent over-population in jail cells of people who have overdue debts,” he said.
According to Tryfonides a total of 25 people are currently serving time for offences related to debts and unpaid fines. Twelve are Greek Cypriots and 13 are foreigners.
“The problem of unpaid debts and fines is adding to the already existing issues of overcrowding and our aging buildings where we cannot separate the inmates completely, which is a problem for us,” he said.
The majority of the 12 Cypriots, Tryfonides said, were unemployed persons who were unable to pay-off their debts but he said their family members were trying to reach an agreement with the attorney-general to gradually pay-off their debts.
“We are already dealing with overpopulation [at the prison] which is a problem and we are being weighed down by those in debt. When there are between 600 and 700 inmates, it is a problem when you cannot separate them. We have to put them in cell blocks away from those serving long sentences or lifers, but also where there is space,” he said.
The governor explained that they have appointed someone to communicate with the attorney-general’s office to arrange the monthly payments in each case.