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NEWS | Sunday, 13 April 2008

One in three prisoners totally idle

Charlot Zahra

A study of prison inmates conducted by “Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl” (MDD), the NGO which works among convicts, showed that one-third of prisoners do not engage in any work at all.
Out of 211 prisoners – half the current prison population of 406 – interviewed by MDD in January this year, 37% or 80 prisoners remain idle all the time.
The study was presented by Matthew Agius, MDD Coordinator for Ex-Convicts, during a conference with the theme “Ex-Prisioners: Branded for Ever?” organised by the NGO last Friday at St James Cavalier.
Only 19 who are learning or practicing a trade. Moreover, there are only 34 inmates who are learning an academic subject at the prison school.
However, those inmates who are housed in certain Divisions at CCF are not allowed to participate in academic programmes at all.
Two-thirds of those interviewed think that the prison is not preparing them adequately for the future outside. Among the reasons cited for this are “lack of teaching and activities”, “a lack of structure”, “only a punishment but no education”, “too much evil and cruelty”, and “too much drugs”.
Some of the prisoners even said that the prison was turning them into a more evil person.
However, there are a number of inmates who said that the prison was helping them. Among the reasons cited for this are “finding discipline in prison”, “having the opportunity to think about the evil they did”, while others said that they “took a lesson”.
Asked about the future, 77% of interviewees said that they think about the future. The most common themes that were mentioned are the family (mentioned by one in three interviewees), work, and the hope of building a new life.
One out of five prisoners interviewed were seriously concerned about how much they were going to find work once out of prison.
Another substantial number of interviewees mentioned “the need to mature”, “the fear of prison and drugs”, “preoccupation with accommodation” and “the wish to leave from Malta”.
Out of those 23% of inmates who declared that they do not think about the future – despite the fact that some of them are still quite young – the prevalent attitude is one of doom, resignation and fear. The common statement among them is “I’ve lost all hope”
More than 75% of all respondents declared that they are afraid of the future. 20% expressed their fear of ending up again in prison. Others mentioned the fear of society rejecting them, fear of whether their families will accept them or not, falling back into the drug habit, and a substantial number fear not finding a job.
Other fears mentioned by the inmates surveyed by MDD included fear not finding an accommodation once out of prison and the fear of ending up alone.
The vast majority of the prisoners interviewed are yearning for something in the future which will make them happier.
On his part, Social Policy Minister John Dalli called for a radical change in the way prisoners are rehabilitated, especially where young offenders are concerned.
Moreover, he announced that the Government has started a scheme under which government employees who are sentenced to prison, and therefore lose their job, are re-integrated into the Civil Service once they serve their respective jail terms.

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