By Peter Stevenson
THE number of inmates at the Central Prisons has fallen to 551 from roughly 700 following recent measures and early releases, chairman of the House human rights committee Sophocles Fyttis said on Monday.
But he warned much more needed to be done. The committee met to discuss the work of the parole board and how to implement community service. Fyttis said that the capacity of the prison had increased to 440 positions from 370, adding that the open prison scheme is part of the system.
The parole board began working in June of last year.Prisoners can be released if the parole board approves their application once they have completed at least half of their sentence if that sentence is more than two years or if they have served at least 12 years if they are lifers. The parole board is currently examining between 45 and 50 cases.
But Fyttis said that the board is facing some problems which prevents it from running smoothly.
“We have continuously pleaded with the justice ministry to call a meeting with all those involved – the parole board, the welfare department, prison management, the justice ministry and the finance ministry – to look at the budget. We have also asked that electronic ankle monitors be introduced. The board has also suggested improvements to the law and we have established that there is a delay in studying applications for parole,” he said.
A suggestion was also made that before convicts are allowed out on parole that they serve a stint in the open prison.
Fyttis said another meeting will be held in six weeks’ time to assess progress.
EDEK MP Roulla Mavronicola said that many problems that exist could be solved if prison management, the parole board and the justice ministry coordinated better.
“We find it unacceptable that electronic ankle monitors were purchased a year and a half ago for prisoners and they cannot be used because the law prohibits their use,” she said.
She said the law needed to be changed urgently as part of measures urgently needed in the wake of five recent suicides at the central prisons.
The committee also discussed implementing community service instead of time in prison.
Fyttis said judges were gradually being convinced that handing out community service instead of prison time could benefit hundreds of people.
Community services can be carried out at libraries, municipalities, parks, volunteer groups, schools amongst others.
“It is a positive move which can help relieve the burden on prisons,” Fyttis said.