Reacting to reports of the latest suicide attempt by a 30-year-old man in Malta’s correctional facility, the Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing Professor Andrew Azzopardi told The Shift, “it’s the same old story that keeps perpetuating itself and keeps confirming that the system has collapsed”.
Azzopardi announced the story on Facebook shortly before Newsbook published the report on Sunday afternoon. Azzopardi, along with other individuals such as former TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi, as well as former prisoners who experienced the state of the prison first-hand, has been calling for the prison director’s dismissal.
Twelve prisoners died during the last three years, but the government has so far stood by prison director Alex Dalli and his methods.
A 30-year-old man is in critical condition at Mater Dei hospital following a suicide attempt within the prison’s walls on Sunday afternoon, a month after a female prisoner died in hospital after another suicide attempt within Corradino, the second within the span of a month.
The ministry for home affairs and security has reacted to the report by announcing the establishment of an inquiry board to “evaluate internal procedures in Corradino”, separate from ongoing magisterial inquiries into prisoner deaths, the outcome of which has never been confirmed due to secrecy protocols within the Attorney General’s office.
It remains unclear why the prison’s medical team was informed of what occurred an hour and a half after the attempt. It is also unclear whether the prisoner will survive.
According to the home affairs ministry’s statement, the inquiry board is composed of Anton Grech, who chairs Malta’s mental health services, as well as Janice Formosa Pace and George Grech, who formed part of separate boards within the prison administration and have now been reassigned to the inquiry, meaning former members of the prison’s governance board will also be on the inquiry which is supposed to analyse the administration’s shortcomings.
Additionally, the board’s terms of reference, published in a separate press release on Monday, indicate that the board will have just 60 days to “scrutinise” the internal procedures of the prison system.
There is no reference to whether the prison’s director, Alex Dalli, notorious for his authoritarian methods and regular use of extreme measures such as solitary confinement, will be removed from his position as pressure mounts on home affairs minister Byron Camilleri to remove the director.
“The prison’s director should not be in place when the inquiry is ongoing. This would be like someone investigating the Faculty for Social Wellbeing while I was still walking around the faculty’s corridors,” Azzopardi said.
“There’s also fear and corruption within the prison’s walls involving staff and prisoners, meaning people will be wary of what they say since the director is still there,” he added.
The government’s press release also failed to indicate whether the minister or anyone else in the administrative or executive branches of the prison system will be held responsible for the 12 deaths that have occurred with the prison’s walls over the last three years.
“There’s a problem with the whole system. For this inquiry to have any validity, the minister and the director of prisons have to start by distancing themselves and allow the inquiry do its job,” Azzopardi stated.
In its terms of reference, the inquiry’s remit is limited to scrutiny and studies of the prison’s internal processes, including procedures related to physical and mental health assessment, procedures upon entry of new prisoners, procedures involving prisoner escort to and from Mount Carmel Hospital and the regulations followed by the correctional services agency in general.
The ministry has not yet clarified whether the results of the inquiry will be made public or whether it will be kept under wraps.