Cyprus Mail

Prison spat over falling concrete overshadows safety issue

prison horizontal
Cyprus' Central Prison, where the parolee in question may soon return for engaging in new offenses.

A row over the need to renovate the Nicosia prisons has been overshadowed by a spat between prison officials regarding comments on the issue, with the deputy director accusing a spokesman of speaking out of line.

The issue arose after pieces of concrete fell from the ceiling which injured an inmate.

Christos Kyriacou, spokesman for the prison guard branch of the Isotita trade union, publicly criticised the state of the prisons – emphasising that “the danger and unsuitability of the buildings is obvious”.

“If his cellmate, who sleeps on the top bunk, had been in the cell at the time he would have been injured seriously or possibly fatally, as the pieces of concrete that fell from the ceiling were 40cm square,” he added.

The comments, made on Sunday after the incident, were attributed to Isotita.

Soon after, deputy prisons director Ioannis Kapnoullas is understood to have called for an incident report into the comments made by Isotita on the matter – stating that Kyriacou did not receive authorisation to make the statements.

That, in turn, was interpreted by Isotita as constituting a disciplinary offence. Kyriacou added that he was told his position would be compromised if he continued making public comments.

But when approached by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Kapnoullas said that Kyriacou was not threatened with disciplinary action. Instead, Kapnoullas said, the administrative investigation simply aims to determine whether disciplinary offences may have been committed.

The board of Isotita on Monday stated that the falling concrete incident concerns the health and safety of prison personnel and inmates, with a relevant statement issued afterwards.

The union further claimed that the action taken by Kapnoullas constitutes an illegal intervention and obstruction of the right and freedom of trade union members.

Kapnoullas, however, insists that Kyriacou was not threatened with disciplinary action.

“Exactly, he was asked to prepare a report, under no circumstances was he threatened with disciplinary action,” Kapnoullas told CNA.

The row between the two sides has overshadowed the initial incident, in which the injured man said he felt dizzy and had stomach pains.

“We are forced to reiterate the need for urgent renovation and construction of new, modern prisons,” Isotita said.

Otherwise, the union added, it is concerned that members will be forced to mourn victims.

The existing wings are proving to be inadequate and unsuitable to meet the needs of prisoners and staff, it concluded.

Last month Justice Minister Anna Procopiou said the cabinet has approved plans for an upgrade to the prisons which will also include the construction of a new wing.

Upgrading existing facilities and adding a new wing to the prison will also solve the problem of overcrowding, she said.




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