Cyprus Mail

Changes planned to treatment of young offenders

The central prison in Nicosia

The government plans to submit a bill on juvenile offenders that among others, provides for separate legal procedures for minors, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said on Monday.

Yiolitis was speaking before the House human rights committee, which was briefed about the operation of the island’s only correctional facility and the need to roll out measures to help with the social reintegration of prisoners.

The minister said the government planned to submit a bill approved by the cabinet last week for the establishment of a justice system that will be friendly towards young offenders.

MPs heard the bill provided for separate procedures for underage offenders, who will be handled by district courts at different times and with different compositions than those dealing with adults.

“These children will not come into contact with adults who are in and out of the courts,” she said.

Minors will also be remanded in custody only in exceptional cases.

On the conditions of the prison, the minister said her priority was its improvement.

“We discussed new ideas we are promoting, like half-way houses, that will give former prisoners a foothold so they can reintegrate into society,” Yiolitis said.

She said her ministry was in touch with various organisations, including employers, in a bid to help former prisoners find work.

“It is important for prisons not to be a revolving door.”

The percentage of recidivism in Cyprus no longer exceeds 15 per cent, the minister added.

Central Prison governor Anna Aristotelous highlighted the importance of seeking new practices and alternative penalties, especially for those sentenced to up to two years in jail.

Aristotelous said training programmes have been enriched, as were other actions that are beneficial to the system and the inmates, resulting in the reduction of recidivism compared with other countries.

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