Overcrowding and staff shortages during Czech prisons

It is lunchtime during Prague’s Pankrác Prison. While some inmates lay and eat in their flat cells, others indent around a corridor, bowls of soup in hand, chatting to staff.

The time is 11 a.m., and these group have already been adult for some-more than 6 hours. Dressed in gray slacks, they will spend many of their day staring during a prison’s bark white walls.

Some are young, some are old, yet they all share cells designed to reason distant fewer people than their stream occupancy levels. And these prisoners are among a luckier ones. Pankrác is overcapacity, yet not by much.

If we expel a net nationwide, a design looks bleaker: Czech jails are during their fullest given annals began, with a series of prisoners rising yearly. Human rights campaigners censure judges for commanding oppressive custodial sentences and ignoring choice forms of punishment. Meanwhile, there are flourishing fears staff reserve could be jeopardized.

On average, a country’s 36 prisons residence 12 percent some-more inmates than they are designed to, according to executive information from Jul 20. Put in genuine terms, they have space to reason adult to 20,855 inmates when there are now 23,369. The misfortune delinquent is Heřmanice Prison in Ostrava, whose ability is teetering on a margin during 137 percent.

As jails are filled to ripping point, Prisons Service orator Robert Káčer says a close conditions have already led to assault and tragedy between inmates and staff.

“Generally, overcrowding is a problem,” he said. “Inmates get assertive since there are too many of them in a tiny space. They are supportive about their rights.”

In a annual news published Jul 24, a Supreme State Attorney’s Office pronounced a trend of packed prisons persists even yet long-term crime rates are not on a rise. These commentary are corroborated adult by a 2011 European Union paper that shows a Czech Republic ranks fourth-highest among member states in terms of a jail race rate.

With 214 inmates per 100,000 people, a country’s rate is scarcely double a EU average. Only a Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have a aloft rate. The State Attorney’s news proposes a series of measures to opposite a problem, including village use and early releases from jail.

Káčer agrees jail should be a final review and welcomed suggestions to digest sentences for teenager offenders.

“This would occur usually when a invalid has behaved good and we consider they can successfully reintegrate behind into society,” he said. “Because a crime is reduction serious, we don’t consider it represents a risk to a public.”

However, critics have called a devise “populist,” estimating it would usually giveaway adult around 500 places a year.

“The early recover of prisoners is not a solution,” pronounced František Valeš, a residence member of a Czech Helsinki Committee (ČHV), a tellurian rights NGO. “The elemental means of a problem is a government’s inability to deposit in a rapist probity system.”

“The bent has been to revoke a spending, notwithstanding a series of inmates increasing.”

Under a 2011 Justice Ministry budget, a Prison Service was allocated 7.5 billion Kč, that was 600 million Kč reduction than 2010. This year, a use has been betrothed scarcely 8 billion Kč, nonetheless Deputy Justice Minister Daniel Volák admits financial constraints continue to poise problems.

“The Prison Service has no income for investment,” he said. “The bill is not that many bigger than in 2005. This is because we can't urge a conditions, that are removing even worse.”

Although a means are lacking to build new prisons, a Justice Ministry says it hopes to emanate some-more than 2,000 additional places in a subsequent few years by fluctuating a ability of existent jails and creation use of dull sites, such as a aged haven stay during Velké Přílepy in executive Bohemia.

New Justice Minister Pavel Blažek has also put brazen a offer to re-categorize prisons – formed on a crime committed – from 4 forms to usually dual in a bid to facilitate logistics and save resources.

But with a re-offending rate touching 65 percent, ČHV Director Markéta Kovaříková argues that jail sentences simply do not work for all criminals.

She says a complement needs to pierce divided from a chronological enlightenment of putting punishment before reform.

“There is a genuine miss of assistance for prisoners who are seeking to re-enter society,” Kovaříková said. “The inability to find work or accommodation and problems in substantiating healthy relations are a categorical reasons they finish adult behind behind bars.”

Valeš would also like to see some-more resources dedicated to a reconstruction of offenders, yet says deficient appropriation creates this charge hardly possible.

“In many European countries, a customary is one dilettante officer per 20 prisoners,” he said. “Five years ago in a Czech Republic, it was one per 80 to 120 inmates; now it can be some-more than 200.”

“In such a situation, it is impractical to adopt any kind of particular proceed to a inestimable preparation of prisoners,” he added.

Staff shortages have already combined a potentially flighty conditions in Czech jails, with Pankrác claiming it lacks adequate officers to cover night shifts. Volák played down any threat, yet Káčer suggested prisons can't sinecure some-more staff than allocated, definition Pankrác has been forced to steal officers from other institutions.

One choice that all sides seem to determine on is a use of residence arrest, that is cheaper than bonds and solves a problem of overcrowding. The intrigue was creatively mooted in 2008, yet it was not until dual years later, after an amendment to a Criminal Code, that a Justice Ministry implemented a operative system.

Since then, judges have come underneath glow for not holding advantage of a law change. According to a latest figures, there are now usually 290 people portion residence arrest, supervised by a Probation and Mediation Service.

Volák says a method is now finally trialing electronic tagging after a two-year delay, with 25 bracelets from a confidence organisation 3M set to be tested over a subsequent few months. This complement could cut some-more than 80 percent from what it costs to jail an offender.

“The cost of gripping a chairman in jail is 1,000 Kč per day,” Volák said. “For someone underneath residence detain with a electronic bracelet, it is usually 165 Kč.”

The hearing will final until a finish of November, and a Justice Ministry will afterwards weigh a results. If deemed successful, a method will open a proposal for a bracelets by a finish of a year.

– Monika Ticháčková contributed to this report.

Jonathan Crane can be reached at