Saturday, 18 November 2017

Czech Ombudswoman calls for changes in prison system

ČTK |
24 March 2016

Brno, March 23 (CTK) - Czech prisons are overcrowded, the living conditions in them are bad, the employment rate of the inmates is low, their re-education is often absolutely ineffective and the prison staff has too much work, Ombudsman Anna Sabatova told journalists on Wednesday.

Czech prisons need more money, but changes in the whole prison system are even more important, especially in the system of crime punishment, Sabatova said.

She said she was discussing these issues with the Justice Ministry that was preparing the prison service concept for 2015-2025.

Sabatova said other forms of punishment than prison sentences should be used far more often, namely house arrest and fines.

There are 203 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants in the Czech Republic, while in Austria it is 95 prisoners and in Germany 76 prisoners, she said.

The probation and mediation service needs to be more supported, Sabatova said.

These measures should lower the number of prisoners. Consequently, the re-education of the remaining prisoners would be more effective, she said.

At present, seven out of ten inmates return to prison after their release because they committed new crimes.

The Ombudsman Office has worked out a detailed report based on checks of seven prisons from 2014-2015.

Czech prisons can house 20,500 inmates, but the number of people serving their prison sentence and those in pre-trial detention is 1000 higher than the official capacity now. Moreover, 3000 people are avoiding serving their sentences at present.

"If these people suddenly decided to serve their prison sentence, the Czech prison system would probably collapse," Milan Svoboda, from the Ombudsman Office, told CTK.

Before the 2013 presidential amnesty, about 7000 people avoided serving their prison sentences in the Czech Republic.

In reaction, Prison Service head Petr Dohnal told public Czech Television (CT) that there are 21,620 inmates in Czech prisons now, which is 103 percent of their capacity.

Before the 2013 amnesty, approximately 23,000 inmates were in the prisons, he said.

Dohnal said the Prison Service had no influence on the penal policy and its task was to lower the number of prisoners who relapse into crime. The service would need tens or even hundreds of new staff to be able to markedly improve the situation, he said.

Justice Ministry spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova told CT that a new commission would deal with the desired decrease in the number of prisoners. This commission may propose legislative changes, she said.

Schejbalova said the new ten-year concept of the prison system would introduce an individual programme for each prisoner.

Sabatova said prisoners in Western European countries were far more often than in the Czech Republic released after serving part of their sentences. As they are released conditionally and they are under permanent supervision, it is much easier to change their behaviour than if they were released after serving the whole sentence, she said.

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