A few weeks ago Dr Joe Giglio joined our current affairs programme with a view to raise awareness about the welfare of inmates in Malta's prisons.
Having spoken to him on many occasions over the last couple of years, this was an issue that was of great concern to him. He wishes to see reforms in the system that would ensure inmates are kept safe and healthy with enough being done to safeguard their basic human rights while they are institutionalized.
During this interview he explains how the root of the problem lies in a somewhat outdated legal system.
‘Recently the number of deaths of prison inmates is on the increase. What we do not have is a confirmation on which of these deaths are caused by natural causes and which deaths are a result of suicide.
The reason we do not have these statistics is that unfortunately in Malta, a magisterial inquiry has to take place each time there is an unexplained death. This means that a magistrate is appointed to investigate the case once a death is reported. These inquiries are held behind closed doors and they also take some considerable time. Unfortunately in Malta we have a system whereby the same magistrates who have been assigned a large workload of routine work have the added responsibility and task to carry out such an inquiry.
I have been advocating the idea for a long time that we take up on a proposal which was originally put forward by the Malta Labour Party in their 1998 electoral manifesto. This proposal, although very good, was never taken up. It provides for a situation whereby the state has magistrates whose work is solely and exclusively confined to carrying out magisterial inquiries only.
The workload for magistrates has increased in the last few years as crime has become more sophisticated and it is therefore more difficult to detect and investigate with for example, money laundering, civil cases and complicated drug cases. The additional burden of these inquiries makes us conclude that today this is a system which needs to be addressed and changed.
In the event that an inmate dies in suspicious circumstances, we cannot really know how many of the deaths were suicides and how many of those were deaths from natural causes. This also makes it very hard for example to carry out a comparison with prison deaths in the rest of Europe.
When a magisterial inquiry is concluded, the results are sent to the Attorney General’s office and the details are not made available on the public domain. If there was the situation of foul play, we would be privy to the information and the conclusions of the Magistrate who carried out that inquiry. However a member of Parliament may decide to ask a Parliamentary question in order to acquire the actual data, even though this data would most probably not be complete. This is another area that needs to be addressed.’
Dr Joe Giglio, Criminal Lawyer
Dr Giglio carries on discussing the measures that are being taken in prisons to manage the coronavirus, regular physical and mental health check ups and rehabilitation. You can watch the full interview via this link.