By Angelos Anastasiou
ON THE back of complaints issued by acting Central Prisons governor Eleni Vatyliotou following a suicide attempt by an inmate, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou announced on Saturday that the ministry is pressing forward with the construction of new prison facilities through public-private partnership (PPT).
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Nicolaou said that prior to inviting tenders, legislation procedures need to be finalised and the House needs to vote on the rules for PPT projects. He said he expects this to be completed by the end of the year.
“The PPT method is the most cost-effective,” Nicolaou said. “Constructing new prisons is among the issues of top priority to the justice ministry. We feel that constructing new prisons through a PPT project appears to be a cost-effective solution, considering the additional operating cost of the current prisons, as well as the constant needs to repair the premises.”
Meanwhile, some of the measures Nicolaou had announced for the improvement of the current prisons are moving forward, while others have been completed. On Monday he will be addressing the House Legal Affairs committee in order to study the progress made on implementing the announced measures.
Following a string of suicides by inmates over a short stretch of time, last January Nicolaou replaced then prison boss Yiorgos Tryfonides with Vatyliotou and announced a series of measures to radically alter inmates’ living conditions and reinstating basic rights allowed by law.
“We have announced various measures relating to the inmates’ accommodation,” he said. “We have increased the water supply, the quantity and the quality of food. We have improved their entertainment, as they may now watch DVDs, or play video games, we have operated the prison’s theatre, while the football tournament is ongoing. We had announced separating the inmates and this has been done to the extent the current premises allow.”
Asked to comment on the issue of ankle monitors and the fact that they have not been used for over two years, Nikolaou said they are far from useless.
“The reason ankle monitors could not be used is current legislation,” he said. “We are trying to amend the law, and the amendment will be submitted to Legal Services to review.”
Following complaints by Vatyliotou that the medical centre at the Central Prisons is not yet up and running, Nikolaou said that it will be in operation by the end of the month, noting that although the previous government required €1.4 million to operate it, this government did it with just €150,000.
By Angelos Anastasiou