COVID19: Cyprus takes action to decongest prisons

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Due to the rapid spread of coronavirus in Cyprus, the government has decided to decongest Nicosia’s Central Prison facilities by relaxing criteria for early release and adopting electronic monitoring at home.

President Nicos Anastasiades presided over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where the government decided to submit two bills to parliament in an effort to stem the spread of the virus in prisons.

Anastasiades had met Attorney General Costas Clerides and Justice Minister George Savvides on Monday focusing on the need to decongest the already overpopulated Central Prison to prevent the virus spreading.

Measures include offering a partial pardon to inmates and having a number of convicts serving their time under house arrest with the use of electronic bracelets.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou has suggested this form of tagging could be used for monitoring COVID-19 patients currently self-isolating at home.

The cabinet decided that the Justice Ministry will prepare a bill to expand the measure of electronic surveillance so that people can serve the remainder of their sentence at home.

It will apply to those:

(a) sentenced for under 12 months provided they have served one-third of their sentence

(b) sentenced for more than 12 months but less than five years provided they have served half their sentence

Prisoners sentenced for serious offences, such as sexual assault against minors and adults, human trafficking and domestic violence will not be eligible for the scheme.

The cabinet also decided to expand prisoner eligible to serve time in the open prison and the time they can spend at the training centre

Specifically, prisoners jailed for up to 12 months will be eligible for open prison (currently six months).

Moreover, time at the training centres will be extended to 18 months from the current 12 months.

Both bills are to be presented before the House of Representatives on Thursday for a vote.

Cyprus now counts 230 COVID-19 cases and 7 deaths, while the government introduced harsher restrictions as of Tuesday, which include a curfew from 9 pm to 6 am.