Prison guards have been exempted from having to take the government examinations in an effort to tackle staff shortages, the justice ministry announced on Friday.

This is the first in a series of measures aiming at addressing prison overcrowding and staffing of the facilities, which was implemented on Thursday following a relevant cabinet decision. It was brought before the body after a relevant proposal by Justice Minister Anna Procopiou.

According to the proposal, the candidates for prison guard recruitment will no longer be required to pass the government exams but instead will attend a special examination.

Exemption from the government examinations had been a long-standing demand of prison guards and had been raised, among other requests, at a May 4 meeting between the justice minister and a delegation from the prison staff of the Pasydy union.

It is expected that meeting this demand will facilitate the recruitment process of prison guards and solve the problem of staffing by meeting service needs in prisons.

This was echoed in Pasydy’s statement welcoming the decision later in the day. They said this was a “positive and important development” which “will significantly contribute in resolving the serious problem of understaffing which has been tackling the prison department since it will help accelerate the staffing of a large and important number of entry-level positions”.

Through constructive dialogue with the new justice minister, Pasydy estimates they will soon agree on adjustments that will drastically improve the prisons’ operations and organisation.

Meanwhile, earlier this week prison guard members of the Isotita trade union threatened to take measures over the “indifference” of the justice ministry for the issues the sector is facing.

The union says it represents most of the guards but discussions are held only with Pasysdy.

It will meet on May 24 to decide on specific actions.

Among measures it called for was the immediate hiring of 60 guards.