WAYS must be found to address the problem of overcrowding in the central prisons which has 100 inmates more than the facility can house, the House human rights committee warned on Monday.
The committee, accompanied by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, visited the central prisons on Monday to witness the overall condition of the institution.
Nicolaou said that there had been significant improvements in the operation of the prison, but overcrowding was a problem.
“We have requested the support of the committee in our effort to reduce the number of foreign nationals held at the prison – who are today 50 per cent (of the inmates),” said Nicolaou. “Mainly those who do not face any punitive measures, since it is people who have been primarily convicted of the offences of illegal entry and stay in Cyprus.”
He added that these people’s sentences were short and they were simply waiting their release before being deported.
Such cases, the minister said, should be speeded up for deportation, as long as detainees are not among those seeking protection according to EU and national legislation.
“Another issue, is that unfortunately courts refer to us, having no alternative, people who should receive treatment in other places instead of being held in prison, where no correction measure could be offered to them,” Nicolaou said.
As regards people imprisoned for debts, Nicolaou said that at the moment there were six such inmates but that they were held in the open prison.
The head of the House committee, Stella Kyriakidou, said that there had been significant improvement over the last ten years in terms of respecting prisoners’ human rights.
She added that the Council of Europe anti-torture committee, in its recent visit had no negative comments, apart from overcrowding.
“Today there are 640 inmates at the prison, whose capacity is for around 540,” Kyriakidou said.
As regards inmates with psychological problems, she said that the committee would visit the Athalassa mental health hospital in January.
Akel MP Skevi Koukouma said that the committee would suggest the addition of a wing at the Athalassa hospital for prison inmates with psychological problems.
Koukouma also expressed concern as to the increasing number of inmates sentenced for sexual offences against minors. To-date there are 54 in total at the prison.
Kyriakidou said that this was due to the new legislation and because victims and their families had begun to speak up.
MPs stressed the need for the introduction of support and rehabilitation programmes for these type of sex offenders.