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Prison management audit

Those who break the law deserve to be punished and society must be protected. However, the State is also responsible to provide those imprisoned for their misdeeds with an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and become useful members of society once they leave.

Unfortunately, prison mismanagement is common in many countries partly because handling people who are forced to live in confinement in spartan conditions is never easy.

Prison management needs to have the skills to ensure order is preserved. It must also treat inmates humanely, with the ultimate objective being that of preparing them to take their place again in society after they serve their term. To achieve this aim, management needs to work as a team with correctional officers and other staff members who, since 2015, have been given the right to join a trade union.

It is a cause of concern that the entire seven-member committee of the Corradino Prison Correctional Officers’ Union has resigned from the General Workers’ Union because, as reported, they found no help in combatting gross mismanagement within the prisons.

The prison officers allege that “vindictive transfers” are being given by the management and that attempts to discuss this issue with Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela have so far failed.

The ministry refutes the prison officers’ claims and maintains that “the accusations made are false insinuations based on no truthful ground”. Once the matter has surfaced, the public needs clarity on the prison’s management.

The causes of mismanagement in corrective facilities are not much different from those one would find in any organisation where no checks and balances exist.

It seems the main problem in the prison facilities is workplace bullying. This abuse is so often ignored by those who are responsible to ensure that public services have good governance structures and policies.

What is the use of giving correctional officers the right to belong to a trade union if the prison management allegedly behaves in an arrogant way with prison staff? What is the position of the GWU with regard to their former members’ allegations of “vindictive transfers” by management?

Why has the union not reacted to the allegations that when prison officers flagged their complaints to the prison’s director his reply reportedly was: “I am the boss here, whoever does not like it can get rid of me or else leave”?

Being a member of the disciplined forces does not give one the right to treat subordinates with arrogance. In a difficult environment, like the one that exists in any prison, management must ensure the officials who are responsible to maintain discipline are supported at all times.

The prison management has grave responsibilities not only towards their direct employees but to society in general and, of course, the inmates themselves. They need to ensure that public money is well spent so prisoners are truly rehabilitated to eventually integrate well in society.

The minister politically responsible for the management of the corrective facilities should commission an independent management audit of the prison to establish whether the correctional officers’ complaints are founded.

The results of such an audit would then need to be discussed with the prison’s management and staff and remedial action taken where necessary.

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