The main purpose of the Innovative Administration in Cyprus Prisons project is to raise awareness and to share knowledge about all the innovative and positive changes that have taken place at the Cyprus Prisons Department since 2015. This is thanks to the initiatives of the new leadership, willing to make reforms that have had an impact on the individual but also on a collective level (staff and prisoners). This moves away from the previous, old-fashioned punitive approach that governed the management of the prison. These changes have made a huge difference by fighting corruption, as well as improving the living conditions of the inmates.
The policy of the Ministry of Justice and Public Order of the Republic of Cyprus – and by extension the Prison Department – is based upon four major principles: safety, humanitarian treatment, education and rehabilitation. Therefore, the Prison Department’s overall mission has to follow these main concepts to carry out its duties, securing and safeguarding the detention of individual, guaranteeing the respect of human rights and human dignity, avoiding discrimination of any kind and encouraging self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. Among other things, this objective is also pursued through education, creative entertainment, therapeutic programmes, self-criticism and self-confidence awareness. In other words, the Prison Department has understood that guidance and assistance are what is needed for the detainees to begin a new life one day and to reintegrate into the society.
It is in this spirit that the punitive model has been completely abandoned. Prisons now focus on the anthropocentric and rehabilitative approach. This helps incarcerated people to understand their mistakes and follow the appropriate programmes (educational and psychological) rather than putting them in a daily struggle for survival accompanied by violence and oppression. The building facilities have been significantly improved by allowing prisoners to live in dignity and reducing the serious problem of overcrowding: new, modern buildings for accommodation have been constructed. New systems of education and professional training have been applied and the quality of the food for detainees has been improved.
All the changes and innovation, and the overall implementation of the management model based on the learning organisation and the creation of a learning environment, was not an easy task. This was especially the case at the beginning as enough time had to be devoted to arranging a system that had never been applied before in a prison context. The aim to change the mentality, culture, attitudes and behaviours through learning, and bring in innovation for both prisoners and staff, makes this pilot project particularly ground-breaking.