Measures to decompress the overcrowded Nicosia central prisons where the risks associated with a potential spread of coronavirus are high were approved on Tuesday by the Cabinet.
The issue of the need to take all possible measures to protect inmates at the central prisons, hosting some 820 prisoners in facilities intended for around 540 people, was stressed by Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou last week.
The matter was also raised on Monday in a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides, during which possible solutions to the problem of overcrowding in the central prisons were discussed, as the potential spread of coronavirus within the prisons would bring substantial turmoil.
On Tuesday, two bills seeking to find immediate solutions were approved by the Cabinet.
One of the approved bills seeks to increase the number of prisoners eligible to complete their sentence under house arrest through electronic tagging (ankle monitors).
Under the provisions of the bill, prisoners who received a sentence of up to 12 months and have served at least a third of their sentence are eligible for house arrest. Additionally, inmates who received a sentence of more than 12 months but less than five years are also eligible, given that they have already served half of their sentence.
Excluded from the provisions of the bill are inmates serving prison sentences for sexual offenses, as well as offenses relating to child abuse, family violence, and human trafficking and exploitation.
The second bill approved allows for an increase in the number of prisoners to be eligible to be transferred to the open prisons, by loosening the eligibility criteria to include those who received sentences of up to 12 months, instead of up to six months that was the case until now.
Only prisoners who have been jailed for up to a year will be eligible for open prison. Currently the law states that only those who have been jailed for six months qualify.
The Parliament is expected to have the final say on the bills on April 2.