JUSTICE Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the philosophy behind the new strategic plan being implemented in the prison system gave great emphasis on detention and living conditions with respect for prisoners’ human rights in accordance with international norms, with checks being carried out regularly by the European Commission and the Ombudswoman.
Nicolaou was speaking after briefing the House ethics committee on the strategic plan for the 2014-17 period. He described as exceptional, cooperation between the prison and the ombudswoman. The upgrading of medical services within the prison and preventive programmes for the psychological assessment of prisoners, during their induction and throughout their stay would address and prevent events like the suicides that marred the prison system in late 2013.
Nicolaou referred to the educational opportunities available to inmates from the functioning of a school giving them a chance to obtain a leaving certificate to the ability to follow university courses and obtain degrees. He said there are currently 12 inmates studying in universities who are doing relatively well.
“We have given the opportunity and ability to prisoners to prepare themselves, within the confines of the prison to stand up in society and to have the personal abilities to cope with the problems they may face on their release,” he said.
Chairman of the Ethics committee, Zacharias Zachariou said his first impression was that conditions had improved but that further improvement was always possible. He thought there was a significant improvement in living conditions, an upgrading of medical and psychological support for inmates and to their rehabilitation programme as well as to their right to education.
Zachariou also referred to the 34 new permanent and five temporary positions announced for the prison and the improvements made to the infrastructure. A new wing for female inmates has been created which is due to be opened soon.