Updated on: 15 October 2020
In cases of newcomer inmates who were transferred to the Prisons Department from abroad or from the Courts or police detention centers, or any other inmate who presents symptoms such as cough, respiratory distress or fever, will be placed in a special site in the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus.
All the newcomers come with a negative COVID-19 test and they are placed in a quarantine unit for 14 days and we repeat the test. If it is negative the inmate is placed in the closed prison – if a positive test appears the inmate will be transferred to a special hospital for treatment or if there are no symptoms the inmate is transferred to a special place outside prisons. This procedure for the repetition of the COVID test started since the 10th of April as it was our suggestion since the 16th of March.
The transfers of prisoners to public and private hospitals for scheduled appointments have been limited to the most urgent and essential cases and as regards the escorted leave permits of prisoners which were initially limited, were afterwards temporarily suspended as from 13.3.2020.
As regards the suspension of visits, in the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus in the Prisons Department, following the relevant Announcement dated 17.3.20, the Management of the Department has decided to extend the use of telephone booths from 08:00 hours to 20:30 hours, on a daily basis including the Weekends and holidays, with the aim of the inmates maintaining contact with their family and social environment.
Furthermore, in the same context, very soon all inmates (including Cypriots) will also be able to use SKYPE to communicate with first-degree relatives, as soon as the system is ready. [As from 2015, only non-Cypriots who did not have visits were able to use SKYPE].
As regards visits to the Prisons Department, an official announcement has been sent to the mass media. Initially all visits from relatives/ friends of the inmates had been reduced to once a week visit from first-degree relatives only (mother, father, spouse and children), given that they met the entrance criteria set out by the Department in the context of the preventative measures. However, as of 15.3.2020 all visits have been temporarily suspended. The Visit Arrangements Offices have informed all visitors accordingly.
As from 2.6.2020, visits have commenced and new temporary measures have taken effect. The visits will take place from Monday to Sunday between the hours 08:00-14:00 and each will last 45 minutes, between of which there will be a 15-minute interval, in order to prepare for the next visit. Each inmate will be entitled to maximum 2 visits per month.
All visits will be conducted with a plexiglass counter separator. Hugs, kisses and handshakes are forbidden, respecting distancing. For the whole duration of the visit the relatives/friends should wear a mask and gloves, that will be given to them by our Department, and they will reject upon exiting the Prisons or outside the Prisons Department.
Even though the visits are temporarily restored, inmates will still be able to use SKYPE to communicate with relatives and friends. Moreover, as per the relevant Announcement dated 17.3.20, the extension of the use of telephone booths from 0800 hours to 20:00 hours, will be sustained.
Firstly to remind you that the 1st COVID incident in the country was on the 9th of March and in Prisons on the 10th of March we put in place preventive measures against the threat and we re engineered our procedures accordingly. We terminated the visits by the 15th of March but since then we offered a variety of choices for contact with the outside world. On the 2nd of June after restructuring the visiting areas with plexiglass separator we allowed 2 visits per month and very recently we allowed 7 visits in a month. Each visit may consists of 3 adults and children. They are all provided face mask and gloves from our department given that they comply with the rest of the criteria (no symptoms and body temperature below 37+). All visits are done with a plexi- glass seperator, thus no physical contact is allowed. Still we maintain the variety of available means for contact. The visitor/s of each inmate has a distance of at least two measures and between them again there are plexi-glass. Further there are disinfectants with which the visitors clean their place before they sit to begin the visit and before they leave the visiting area.
If any visitor or inmate violates the rules the visit is terminated. For the inmates in the closed prisons leaves and transfers for attending family events are terminated as from 15th of March.
Instructions were given to all inmates who would go on leave with/without escort such as:
During their leave, to avoid contact with persons who:
Failure of any inmate to comply with above instructions, will immediately terminate their leave permit.
The inmate upon their departure, will sign the relevant formal declaration (Document Φ.223 Β1) in which they responsibly declare that during their leave, they will arrange not to come into contact with persons who:
The inmate upon their arrival, will sign the relevant formal declaration (Document Φ.223 Β2) in which they responsibly declare that during their leave, they did not come into contact with persons who:
Escorted exit permits for inmates have been temporarily suspended in the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus as from 12.3.20.
All projects/constructions within the prisons have been temporarily suspended in order to restrict the number of persons entering the prisons.
All prison gyms have been temporarily closed so as to avoid overcrowding in the fitness rooms/gymnasiums. However, a program for everyday outdoor exercise is set for all Blocks, by maintaining social distancing. All gym activities have been suspended from 16.3.2020 and training of inmates is allowed in outside spaces, particularly in the football and basketball grounds, courtyards and other spaces outside of the Blocks. Relevant instructions were issued for both staff and inmates.
In all the kitchens, in addition to the specialized personal equipment and kitchen uniforms always worn by the inmates and staff members who work there, a special gelatin frame was placed in front of the benches during food serving so that there is no contact between the kitchen workers and the inmates being served.
The Department’s Management began visiting all Blocks as well as all other areas of the prisons, to check the implementation of the measures taken in the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus and to speak with staff members and inmates.
At each shift, the frontline staff responsible for searches of persons, staff and inmates before their entrance in the prisons, are provided with the necessary protective equipment (disinfectants, gloves, masks, protective goggles and uniforms). We have provided the frontline staff, serving at the search places (X-ray Machines and Archway Metal Detectors) with electronic thermometers, in order to check the body temperature of every person (visitors, lawyers, prison staff, civilian staff, prisoners etc.) who meets all the criteria for entering the Prisons Department, before their entrance in the prisons. Those who do not meet the criteria for entering the prisons are asked to leave the facilities, immediately.
All staff members have been instructed as from 11.3.2020 to restrict travelling to only if strictly necessary and on 16.3.2020 new instructions were given to completely avoid travelling outside Cyprus, as well as come into contact with persons who:
Moreover, the members were also instructed that in case they have travelled in the past 14 days and/or they present any of the pre-mentioned symptoms to immediately call the 24-hour call-centre 1420 and consult with our Department’ s Human Resources Office regarding the issue of isolation/staying at home and for the relevant sick leave, according to Newsletter no. 1605 of the Ministry of Finance.
Members who have travelled abroad in the past 14 days, have been instructed to stay at home until 14 days have elapsed since their return.
Instructions have been given to staff members and particularly frontline staff (serving at the Entrance Gate, Body Searches, Visit Arrangements Offices, the search places (X-ray Machines and Archway Metal Detectors), at Entrance Gate and inside prisons, Clothing & Electronics Warehouse, who carry out searches for all inmates, visitors, prisons staff and other civilian staff that perform any job at the Department, relatives and friends of inmates, for delivering clothing, for relevant handling in case of presenting symptoms (fever, cough or sore throat, muscle aches and difficulty breathing), for the measures to be taken in the context of preventing the transmission of the coronavirus.
All staff training and seminars have been suspended as from 16.3.2020.
As regards body searches of newcomer inmates, depending on the formal declaration signed by them (Document 223Α), before the staff members carry out the search, medical screening will take place before they enter the prisons. Depending on the results of the medical examination and given that the inmate would have to enter the prisons, the members will carry out the body search in a special room, wearing gloves, mask and protective goggles, for preventive reasons. Newcomers from abroad whether they present or not any of the prementioned symptoms, are placed in quarantine.
The staff members carrying out searches at the Entrance Gate and the search places (X-ray Machines and Archway Metal Detectors), during the body searches of every person, they will wear uniforms, gloves, mask and protective goggles.
The Prisons Department has bought stock of masks, disinfectants, uniforms and protective goggles, for the staff and prison population in case of emergency.
The prisons Management, has offered for free extra personal soaps to each inmate instructing them to wash their hands often, specifically during the hours they are outside of their cells and especially before and after:
according to the pictures and instructions shown on the flyers of the World Health Organization.
Disinfection has taken place in all Blocks, common areas, service vehicles, as well as in all areas used by the public.
Electronic temperature screening is for all persons entering our facilities. Further a thermal camera has been installed, forbody temperature screening of all persons before entering the closed Prisons (second check).
Devices with disinfectant hand-rub have been installed throughout the Prisons along with relevant instructions. Storage devices for disinfectants were bought, as well as stock for immediate replacement.
Instructions have been issued for prison officers serving at the Infirmary to always wear gloves when administering medication to inmates, at the Department’s Infirmaries and Blocks.
General practice nurses and mental health nurses working in the Department have both been instructed, to at least wear gloves and/or a mask when examining inmates and/or administering medication.
The staff members serving at the Visit Arrangements Offices (at Entrance Gate and inside prisons), will wear gloves and mask.
Instructions were also given to members of staff serving at the Clothing & Electronics Warehouse for inmates, to wear masks and gloves upon receiving clothing and other items from relatives/friends who were allowed entrance in the prisons since they met the relevant criteria and were checked at the Entrance Gate, for delivering clothing that is clean and washed at least at 40 degrees Celsius, for which they fill in a relevant form.
The staff serving in the special Block (quarantine block) where cases of newcomer inmates are transferred to the Department from abroad or from the Courts or police detention centers, or any other inmate who presents symptoms such as cough, respiratory distress or fever, in the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus, will bear Personal Protective Equipment. Further, the concerning inmate will be wearing protective equipment.
All members who carry out interviews from newcomer inmates, will bear Personal Protective Equipment.
Upon/during delivery of the inmates’ canteens, both the staff members and inmates working for the canteen delivery shall be provided with Personal Protective Equipment.
Information material, flyers of the World Health Organization on individual hygiene, health and coronavirus prevention guidelines have been posted throughout the Prisons.
In addition, announcements along with information material from the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health were issued, to frontline staff who are the first to come into contact with the public, particularly members serving at the Entrance Gate and members of the Visit Arrangements Offices who are in immediate contact with visitors (Suppliers, civilian staff, Lawyers, Police, Prison Staff, Mental Health Services, Department of Public Works, Department of Electromechanical Services, Social Welfare Services) regarding the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus.
Also, additional announcements were issued on 10.3.2020 and 11.3.2020, in both Greek and English, to all inmates regarding the visits by their relatives/friends urging them to reduce the visits to the upmost necessary.
We are very careful regarding the people who enter our facilities: the staff, lawyers, other civil staff, welfare services, medical staff, schools teachers, visitors, police staff, ombudsperson office. It goes without saying that if they present symptoms or their body temperature is more than 37+, are not allowed to enter our premises. Surely, we do not allow TV crews during COVID period
We never received petitions in the past 6 years
In the context of the prevention of the transmittable coronavirus, the Management of the Prisons Department as from 10.3.20, has issued and enforced preventative measures for inmates, newcomer inmates, prison staff, civilian staff, the Mental Health Services, the Social Welfare Services, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Electromechanical Services and other staff working in the Department, visitors, lawyers, suppliers and anyone else who visits our facilities.
The preventative measures applied in the Cyprus Prisons Department as from the 10thMarch 2020, reflect the general Guidelines of the WHO as well as the CPT’s Recommendations, and specifically the CPT’s “Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic” (issued on the 20.3.20), the national guidelines of the Ministry of Health as updated, the “Interim Guidance for prisons and places of detention” published by the WHO on the 15th March 2020, the SPT’s “Advice of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture to States parties and national Preventive Mechanisms relating to the Coronavirus Pandemic” (issued on the 25.3.20), the “Covid-19 Related Statement by the Members of the Council for Penological Co-Operation Working Group” issued by the PC-CP Working Group on the 17.4.20, as well as other documents issued by relevant Organisations and Institutions.
For any further questions regarding the procedures in the state of emergency taken by the Ministry of Justice and Public Order: Department of Prisons of Cyprus please contact the following:
Department of Prisons of Cyprus
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union