Discipline is essential to protect each individual’s liberty. There is the discipline we exercise upon ourselves, and there is the disciplinary power of the state to contend with when that fails. Lawbreakers lose one of the most valuable treasures of all – personal freedom – when dealing with the disciplinary action that is jail time. It is discipline which is often exercised to keep the peace in prison. However, while discipline is necessary for rehabilitation as much as anything else, it would seem that all too often, it is an excuse for brutality.
There is a thin red line between strictness and sadism. This was the line crossed by Alex Dalli, if the many suicides in recent years are anything to go by. In this case, justice has been replaced by petty tyranny, not in service to society or the common good, but to an illegitimate kingdom within our republic, set up behind Corradino’s walls.
Surely, it must be a kingdom which lies in Corradino – for the supposed petition going around to reinstate Dalli can surely be nothing but a regime’s desperate attempt to hang on to power. What interests are being threatened to rouse such a desperate, transparent and dangerous gambit? There is no petition which can change the facts of an environment of terror, where suicide is considered a preferable exit than spending another minute in that place, where it is alleged that people are humiliated by having guns shoved into their mouths.
In Corradino, long periods of isolation are dished out at a whim without any consideration for international standards of human rights, in spite of the studies which prove the lasting and serious damage to mental health. What about the humanity of those inside those prison walls? Why are attempts being made to erase it? What is actually being done to help these inmates to live a law abiding life after prison, or adjust to society? It is common sense that fear and violence merely breeds resentment and anger. What sort of correctional facility does Malta have where nothing is corrected, and things are only broken further, with cruel and wicked intentionality?
Being led by our emotions is an easy way out to many who would rather not sympathise with the condemned. The country needs a mature discussion, however, about what immediate action needs to be taken to correct this correctional facility. We cannot, as a country, vent our frustrations on these people who have forfeited their freedom without actually trying to understand what has gone wrong in our society and how we can fix it instead of make it worse. Malta would do well to take inspiration from correctional models abroad, rather than follow the model where people leave worse than they went in. It would also be of net benefit to society to help people turn over a new leaf rather than fund their torture and ruin them for life.
We need a more humane prison which reforms. We do not need a dustbin where we dump the unwanted. Let reason lead where playing on emotions has ruled so far. It is easy to ignore what many see as the bad guy being wronged, and it is difficult to understand that there can be a better way. Now is the time for our correctional facility to understand. Responsibility does not end with Dalli, however. Byron Camilleri needs to accept political responsibility. Alex Dalli should have been fired, not suspended, and the lives lost must be answered for. In the illegitimate kingdom of Corradino, it is clear who is actually in charge – and it is not the Minister for Home Affairs.
ADPD Deputy Secretary General
Published in The Malta Independent – Wednesday 24 November 2021