The prison system in Cyprus has seen substantial progress, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday while speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of the Prison Parole Board.

This is confirmed by the praise Cyprus receives from the competent committees of the Council of Europe on its human-centric approach, he said.

The new parole board is chaired by Alexia Lycourgou, with Theodora Kamara, Maro Antoniou, Stavros Mavrommatis and Lambros Samartzis as members.

Speaking during the ceremony, Anastasiades said that the appointment of the board was taken on the basis of candidates’ academic background, their ethics, their honesty and integrity as well as their experience in positions related to the field of penal treatment.

At the same time, he said the government has set as its goal the further modernisation of the country’s prison system, based on a more human-centred approach built on respect for human rights, prisoner reform, education and social reintegration.

He made no mention of the murder of the Turkish inmate in the prison last Thursday for which ten guards have been suspended and eight prisoners remanded.

The president expressed confidence that the new board will effectively carry out its legally defined mission, which entails periodically reviewing the sentences of long-serving convicts, examining parole requests from prisoners and determining the terms of their parole.

At the same time, the board has the responsibility to ensure the smooth and productive reintegration of prisoners into the social fabric, with a view to serving the well-intentioned interest of society, he said.

In this context, he stressed the valuable work done by the prisons’ directorate towards “innovative changes” related to the operation of the prisons themselves.

This entailed providing constant training for prison personnel and establishing educational and vocational training programmes for prisoners, with the ultimate goal being to prepare them for a smooth reintegration into society.

Anastasiades also pointed out upgrades in the offered medical services, which “equalised the right of prisoners to enjoy the same access to specialised care as the rest of the public,” and an overhaul of the educational programmes offered, which opened up access to night classes through the education ministry.

A large number of prisoners already attend these programmes while others are enrolled in academic institutions, he said.

He also referred to the “pioneering” €4 million incentive scheme for the work rehabilitation of released prisoners, which launched in 2020, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which enabled a large number of prisoners to secure work upon their release.

The president also mentioned the implementation of alternative prison measures, such as community work, parole and expanding the use of electronic home monitoring for those on parole.

In addition to all this, he added that two pieces of legislation are being discussed by the House legal affairs committee which constitute substantial and direct compliance with decisions issued by the European Court of Human Rights, in relation to respect for the human rights of prisoners.

He also expressed his satisfaction with the work done and is being done by the prisons’ directorate, extending gratitude to the departing parole board for their work.

Addressing the new board, Anastasiades said that they were being entrusted with carrying out high humanitarian and social work.

“I have absolutely no doubt that you will continue the positive implementation of the institution to date, putting your stamp on its effectiveness,” he said.

For her part, the new board chair Alexia Lycourgou pledged the board’s commitment to earning the state’s trust, saying that “the state does not forget or abandon its prison inmates, and does care about their rehabilitation, offering them hope and motivation to leave behind their criminal past”.