Prison Director General Dalli suspends himself after 13th death on his watch

Home Affairs Ministry announces suspension after meeting with Alexander Dalli earlier today

 

The Home Affairs Ministry has officially confirmed that the Correctional Services Agency’s (CSA) Director General, Alexander Dalli, has suspended himself following news reports of the suicide of yet another prisoner, bringing the total amount of deaths under Dalli’s regime to 13.

The prisoner was a 35-year-old Indian man who was found dead in his cell at around 6.30am this morning, with initial reports referring to a suicide note being found. According to the Home Affairs Ministry statement, Dalli’s suspension went into immediate effect after a meeting between the prison chief and the Minister, Byron Camilleri. The meeting took place a few hours after the death was discovered.

An inquiry board that was set up to audit the prison’s operations after 29-year old Kim Borg Nicolas Virtu’ attempted to commit suicide in prison, only to die in hospital on July 4 of this year, is still ongoing.

Calls for Dalli’s dismissal have been escalating since his appointment as director general in June 2018, mainly due to the alarming rise in prisoner suicides, as well as repeated claims from inmates and warders about inhumane conditions, psychological and physical torture through methods such as regular solitary confinement, and amid allegations of severe mistreatment of prisoners and abuse of basic fundamental human rights.

Not much is publicly known about the 13 deaths that occurred under Dalli’s watch as the conclusions of magisterial inquiries that looked into these deaths were never made public. In a press conference, Minister Camilleri had claimed that around 75% of the deaths that occurred in prison were of natural causes.

Camilleri, along with Prime Minister Robert Abela, had regularly backed Dalli’s authoritarian methods up until Dalli’s self-suspension this morning. It is not known whether Dalli’s self-suspension is a temporary decision, with Camilleri recently stating that decisions will only be taken once the inquiry board set up by the Minister in August – after Colin Galea, another prisoner, had died in hospital after a suicide attempt – is concluded.

NGOs and individual activists who have been actively campaigning for a complete overhaul of the prison as well as for Dalli’s immediate dismissal reacted vociferously to the news of the latest suicide to be committed within Corradino’s walls.

The Dean of the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi, along with fellow prison activist and journalist Peppi Azzopardi, have been waging an extended campaign to raise awareness about the severity of the conditions in prison and the degrading treatment of prisoners.

Reacting to the news of Dalli’s self-suspension, Andrew Azzopardi called for the home affairs minister’s resignation, arguing that the minister had “stuck his neck out to defend Dalli when he should have been listening to us all along”.

NGO Moviment Graffitti, which has also repeatedly called for Dalli’s removal and an immediate overhaul of the prison system, stated that this was the 14th  death in prison in just over two years, arguing this was enough on its own to lead to Dalli’s immediate removal from his position.

“As for Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, who keeps defending Dalli in spite of the high rate of deaths in prison, he should also shoulder political responsibility for all of this,” the group’s statement reads.

Announcing its intent to call for further action, the NGO also outlined that Corradino is “supposed to serve as a correctional and rehabilitative facility” but has instead become “a place of death and terror”.

Aditus, a human rights advocacy NGO, also called for Dalli’s immediate removal, stating that he should be removed without “waiting for the conclusions of yet another inquiry, no suspension pending pending investigation and no resignation”.

Fellow NGO Repubblika also made a similar call, arguing that Dalli’s tenure was in itself “a danger to the lives of the people who he was supposed to be caring for”.

“His methods, his behaviour and the ‘discipline’ which he himself says he exercises in order to instil fear in prisoners are the cause of another death in prison today. This brutality does not have any place in a civilised country,” Repubblika’s statement says.

                           
                               
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