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Coronavirus: Concerns over prison conditions despite early releases

The early release of prisoners as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus inside the island’s only correctional facility has improved the situation but the overpopulation problem continues to exist, a rights association said Wednesday.

Yiannis Polyhronis, the vice chairman of the association for the protection of the rights of prisoners and former convicts said the release of some 130 people has decongested the Nicosia facility but only to a certain degree.

“The situation has improved but the overpopulation problem in the prison continues to exist,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.

The Central Prisons have a capacity of about 450 people, but they currently house around 700.

Polyhronis said a letter has been sent to the president asking for the immediate release of prisoners who belong to vulnerable groups or placing them under house arrest with an ankle monitor.

The association wants a revaluation of the cases of all prisoners who are either ill or belong to vulnerable groups since basic protective measures like distancing and hygiene cannot be applied in the facility.

“There are also prisoners who are over 60, a population group that is in more danger if infected by Covid-19 according to World Health Organisation guidelines.”

The letter denied suggestions that prisoners were protected because they were effectively in quarantine.

They come into contact with the guards who in turn have families, which also come into contact with other people, the association said.

“There are also new detainees who have gone through questioning, holding cells, courts and contacts with numerous people.”


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