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Cyprus

Psychiatric department under strain at prisons

prison horizontal, Nicosia prison
File photo

Understaffing and a lack of interest have left the prisons psychiatric department without fulltime employees for the past year, the justice ministry said on Tuesday, after the subject surfaced at the House human rights committee the previous day.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, a spokesman from the ministry said that before 2015 the psychiatric department in the prisons was staffed with two fulltimers.

One person then resigned, leaving the department with only one fulltime psychiatrist, who resigned in 2022.

According to the ministry, since last year, the prisons have been requesting for the two positions to be filled as now the needs of the department are being covered by two non-permanent staff on rotation.

The Cyprus Mail learned the reason there has been no fulltime staff for over year is due to understaffing and a lack of interest among psychiatrists in the civil service’s psychiatric services to work at the prisons.

The ministry said once the two positions are filled, then the two psychiatrists will be enough to run the department at the prisons.

The ministry said that the psychiatric services would need to find the individuals in coordination with the state health services organisation (Okypy).

On Monday, the House human rights committee visited the prisons, where it was informed about the procedures and conditions there.

Committee chair Akel MP Irene Charalambides said there are weaknesses in the provision of mental health services, overpopulation, an increase of sexual crimes, and delays in the establishment of the supervisory authority at the prisons.

Following the visit, Justice Minister Anna Procopiou said that it is important to have the permanent presence of psychiatrists in prisons.

She also referred to the desire of the ministry to proceed with the establishment of an independent observatory at the prisons, which will function as an advisory and supervisory body for prison matters.

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