Cyprus: cabinet to approve measures to mitigate prison overcrowding

The cabinet is on Tuesday expected to approve a series of measures to cut down on overcrowding a the Nicosia central prisons to curb any spread of the coronavirus.

The issue was the main topic of discussion during a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and justice minister Giorgos Savvides on Monday, along with some recommendations made by Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou who stressed the need to take all possible measures to protect the health and safety of all convicts.

Measures will include early release, moving some inmates to the open prison, and electronic home monitoring.

During the meeting it was decided that Savvides would ask Attorney-general Costas Clerides to look into the possibility of granting a presidential pardon to more categories of prisoners, excluding those ones who are not eligible for a pardon.

It was also decided that a bill would go to cabinet on Tuesday to expand electronic surveillance, in order for people to serve the remainder of their sentence at home.

The last measure will apply to those sentenced for to 12 months, provided they have already served one third of their sentence, and to those sentenced for more than 12 months but less than five years, provided they have already served half their sentence

Prisoners who have been sentenced for serious offences, such as murder, will not be eligible for neither an early release, nor for home monitoring.

It was also decided that another bill aimed at the expansion of the prisoners’ eligibility for the open prison is also expected to be approved by the cabinet.

Only prisoners who have been jailed for up to a year will be eligible for open prison. Currently the law states that only those who have been jailed for six months qualify.

The bills are expected to go to a vote by parliament on April 2.

Reports last week suggested that around 50 prisoners could be released. Nicosia central prison has been operating beyond capacity for some time. It is understood that there are currently 820 prisoners at a facility intended for 540 inmates.

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