Cyprus Mail

Proposal to expand prison to ease overcrowding

Nicosia central prison

A proposal by the justice ministry to convert the open prison to a closed one so as to tackle overcrowding in the current premises is set to head to Cabinet for approval on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in parliament on Monday after a House human rights committee session, Justice Minister Anna Procopiou said the proposal envisages converting the open prison wing with a 220-person capacity, to a closed prison facility.

This is to tackle the existing overcrowding as the central prisons have the capacity for 600 individuals but currently host 1,000 people. She told deputies studies have been carried out for the matter.

The existing open prison will subsequently be transferred elsewhere.

Isotita union said it was completely opposed to this idea as the current open prison is surrounded by residential areas.

Procopiou added talks are ongoing with the transport ministry over building new prison premises, while there is also an offer floating from the private sector. The matter of mobile phones is being handled by the same ministry – which also deals with public works, she specified.

Meanwhile, a proposal to hire another 50 prison guards has been greenlighted, she said.

Procopiou told deputies that after talks with experts from the Council of Europe, a proposal has been tabled to have an independent observatory for prisons, which can assess requests from inmates and their relatives, while acting as a liaison with the justice ministry.

Isotita union stressed the most serious problem at the moment are prison premises and they anticipate a new building. Other issues surround the arrangements due to the fact that many cells do not have bathroom facilities, meaning prison guards have to be present all night with the inmates to unlock the cell one at a time.

Prison director Ioannis Kapnoullas told deputies there had been mistaken information over Kurdish Kenan Ayaz’s detention condition, stressing he was allowed to go out to the yard, while no one had denied him the right to have his own doctor examine him, in addition to one by the prisons.

He told deputies when Ayaz began his hunger strike, two of his cell mates were removed but he was still able to access the surrounding area, while he also played chess with other inmates.

Kapnoullas’ view was that the prison went above and beyond what it could do for him, but in the end were targeted.

Akel MP Irene Charalambides also tabled the matter of late defence minister Costas Papacostas to be discussed at a future date after Nicosia district court ruled the Republic of Cyprus violated his human rights during his incarceration in the aftermath of the 2011 blast at Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari.



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