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Prison officials play down reports on new suicide attempt.

By Constantinos Psillides

A 22-yearold inmate at the Nicosia central prisons was suspected of attempting suicide on Thursday night, after being hospitalised for slashing his wrists.

The 22-year-old is a Greek natural citizen and was serving a sentence for drug possession. He is to be released next week, after being pardoned by President Nicos Anastasiades.

A high-ranking officer in the central prison played down reports about the suspected suicide attempt, telling the Cyprus Mail that the inmate's wounds weren't that serious.

"He merely scratched his arm. He didn't cut his wrists and this wasn't a suicide attempt. We sent him to the hospital for stitches and now he is back," the prison officer said, adding that the 22-year-old was merely imitating the actions of other prisoners. "You see this all the time. Inmates mimic each other's behavior," he noted.

The inmate is now on suicide watch, pending his release.

There has been an alarming rise in suicides and suicide attempts amongst inmates at the central prisons. On December 28, a Syrian national of Kurdish decent committed suicide by using his shoelaces to hang himself while isolated and on suicide watch. He has just been informed of the death of his mother and two nieces in Syria. He was on suicide watch after having tried to end his life only days before even though he had only one month left to serve.

In August a 26-year-old convict was found hanged in his cell. The man had been jailed for 12 years for killing his sister by hitting her over the head more than 50 times with a laptop in the family's Nicosia home in January 2012.

The family had been under care of the welfare department having known psychological issues.

On July 18 last year, a 42 year-old man who was in prison awaiting trial on charges of arson, fixed for that September, also committed suicide in his cell.

After public outcry over the suicide attempts, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou met Thursday with Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou to discuss the issue. The minister announced a series of measures to be implemented by the end of the month, including psychiatric care for those exhibiting suicidal tendencies, medication and a review by a qualified medical board.

The minister also discussed the need for creating special monitoring areas in prisons for inmates who have mental issues and training staff to know what the best practice is in dealing with such people.

The prison is also overcrowded, and does not have a hospital wing, which means inmates are treated outside.

Currently, former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas although found guilty and sentenced in the Mari trial last summer, has not served any jail time as he was taken straight to hospital where he has remained for the past six months.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Jan 4, 2014
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