Prisons Overcrowded, Suffocating - Ombudsman
The Central Prisons in Nicosia are overcrowded and prisoners are living in 'suffocating' circumstances, said Ombudsman Iliana Nikolaou after a visit to the prisons yesterday.
The problem of overcrowding is becoming more ever-more acute, said the Ombudsman. Cells contain double the number of prisoners they are built for, with up to 70 people sharing three toilets, she said.
She called for prison authorities to resolve the situation without delay, saying that the stress of overcrowding is affecting prisoners' health and that of prison guards. Nicolaou also pointed out that the prison population also contains drug addicts who need special attention.
Illegal immigrants contribute to the overcrowding, and the Ombudsman reiterated a proposal to decriminalise illegal entry and keep foreigners from third countries in separate facilities.
Another group of prisoners - those awaiting trial - should also be detained separately and a day-release scheme should be introduced to relieve pressure on the prison system, she said.
Meanwhile, the Statistical Service (CYSTAT) released the latest crime statistics for 2008 based on information from the courts and prisons. The number of serious offences was 7.341 compared to 7.556 in 2007. Offences against property were the largest group of offences, accounting for 59,3% of serious offences, followed by offences relating to forgery, coining and criminal impersonation with 12,7%. The number of cases concerning drug offences decreased by 11,0% compared to the previous year. The number of cases recorded in 2008 was 780 compared to 876 in 2007.
The number of adult offenders convicted of serious offences was 1.607, compared to 1.903 the year before. The average age was 26,0 years for males and 30,0 for females. The women represented only 8,5% of adult convicted offenders, while the convictions of foreigners constituted 39,3% of the total convictions for serious offences (38,1% of males and 52,2% of females).
The number of juvenile offenders who are involved in the commission of both serious and minor offences reached 341 in 2008 (of which 17 were girls) compared to 257 in 2007.
According to the Judicial Statistics, 103.829 persons appeared before the courts in 2008, compared to 107.269 in 2007. Of these, 63.775 were convicted, compared to 66.962 the year before.
Regarding Prison Statistics, there were 1.255 admissions of convicted persons (1.164 males and 91 females) in 2008, compared to 1.281 in 2007. In addition to the convicted prisoners, 1.117 accused persons (pending trial) were admitted into prison, according to the survey.