Press Advisories

9. 7. 2009 9:49

The Minister of Justice is looking for solution of the problem of overcrowded prisons

Ministryně spravedlnosti Daniela Kovářová / Minister of Justice Daniela Kovářová
Ministryně spravedlnosti Daniela Kovářová / Minister of Justice Daniela Kovářová
On Wednesday, 8th July, Czech Minister of Justice Daniela Kovářová concluded her two-day tour of several selected prisons in the Czech Republic.

The purpose of which was to familiarize herself with the specificities of the prison environment and find answers to some of the most burning problems tackled by the penal system.

“Until now I only knew the prison environment in the capacity of defence counsel, now I could look at it through different eyes, and also saw it in terms of figures – the number of staff or square metres of living space,” said the Minister.

One of the chief problems of the penal system are insufficient accommodation capacities of prisons. In July 2009, the number of prisoners reached 22 thousand, which in terms of the national average represents 115 % overcrowding. The situation is moreover considerably complicated by the under-financed budget of the justice department, and by the fact that the respective government resolution instructs the Prison Service to reduce the number of its full-time employees by 383 next year.

“This year’s budget for the penal system was set at 8 344 million CZK, and next year it is expected to be reduced by 430 million. Considering the high rise in the number of prisoners, this situation is untenable,” warned Daniela Kovářová.

This year the accommodation capacity of the prison in Ostrov was increased by 100 places and that of the prison in Kynšperk nad Ohří by 200. Between 40 and 60 new places are available in the prison in Světlá nad Sázavou and 260 in Raportice, where a further 200 places are planned to be added in the foreseeable future. But even these provisions are not commensurate with the speed of growth in the number of prisoners.

The Minister of Justice sees a solution in using the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model in dealing with the problem. In the penal system such cooperation would mean that a partner from the private sector would design, build and finance a prison and subsequently operate it for a defined period of time, while the prison service would define the output specifications of the project and be responsible for guarding the prisoners. The public sector would thus avoid initial investment costs, and would pay the private partner the so-called availability fee. According to the Minister, another way of dealing with the problem of overcrowding are alternative penalties, that means sanctions not involving imprisonment.

“It is necessary to follow the example of modern democratic countries and make a better and more effective use of the possibility of imposing sentences such as community work, pecuniary penalties or prohibition to undertake professional activities. Great benefits are expected of the new institute of house arrest, defined in the new Penal Code.”

Despite the unfavourable situation regarding accommodation capacities, high unemployment and financial crisis, the employment rate of prisoners is maintained at 60 %, which is the average in modern democratic states.

“What I also regard as a great success is a series of pilot project implemented in prisons, such as the Clean City scheme – to name at least one – taking place in Břeclav, where the prisoners help with the clearance of illegal waste dumps and in this way make their contribute to the community,” the Minister pointed out.

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