HOMEPAGE

Life&Work

 

Overcrowded Czech prisons spur renewed calls for alternative sentencing

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

There are more people behind bars in the Czech Republic per capita than anywhere else in central Europe, despite efforts over the past decade to promote alternative sentences, such as house arrest or work-release programmes. With the penal system at overcapacity, Prison Service officials have renewed calls for action.

 

In his final New Year’s address of 2013, outgoing president Václav Klaus announced a controversial wide-ranging amnesty, applying both to inmates and suspects awaiting trial, to mark 20 years of the Czech Republic’s independence.

That presidential pardon resulted in the release of some 6,400 people and, for a while, took pressure off of the overcrowded prison system, cutting the population by a third. But despite moves to extended capacity and build new facilities, the penal system is again under strain – about 4 per cent above the intended maximum population.

Gen. major Petr Dohnal, head of the country’s Prison Service, is among those who have advocated giving judges greater leeway to hand out alternative sentences.

“Today, we are again dealing with prison overcrowding. There are about 22,000 people in Czech prisons. The overcrowding affects mainly high-security prisons. In some cases, there are up to 15 inmates in one cell. The Prison Service would definitely welcome more alternative punishments and house arrests. Also, the inmates would not be cut off from their families and wouldn’t lose their jobs, which, unfortunately, is often the case if they end up in prison.”

The Ministry of Justice has laid out plans to motivate judges to grant alternative sentences, in part by rewarding them for doing so by reducing their administrative burden. Prison Service deputy director Brig. Gen. Simon Michailidis says having fewer people incarcerated as punishment benefits the country as a whole.

“I would greatly appreciate more alternative sentencing. This would help the Prison Service but also Czech society. Alternative sanctions are much cheaper. Even if they turn out to be as effective – or perhaps as ineffective – as the deprivation of liberty, at least they are economically beneficial.”

Mr Michailidis says regardless the punishment, treating convicts with greater respect also helps prevent recidivism – noting that about a third of the prisoners released under the 2013 amnesty of Václav Klaus ended up back behind bars.

"On the one hand, we were relieved after the amnesty. But we hoped that the Czech Republic would then devote itself to implementing the necessary reforms before capacity was replenished. We had wanted there to be fewer people in prison than before the amnesty.”

According to the Office of the Ombudsman, in 2016 there were 203 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants in the Czech Republic, some 25 more than in other post-communist EU countries – and twice that of neighbouring Austria and Germany, where alternative sentencing is more common.

 
 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 05.09.2018
 
 
 

Related articles

 
Life&Work
 
 

This year’s Festival of Freedom seeks...

The annual Festival of Freedom, which organises many of the November 17th celebrations, will offer a wide...

 
 
Life&Work
 
 

Health ministry proposes options to...

People suffering from cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases should...

 
 
Life&Work
 
 

Interior Ministry opens Prague “CenZA...

The Ministry of Interior has opened a shop in the Prague city centre – actually, more of a showcase of...

 
 
Life&Work
 
 

Planner: Prague centre population...

In recent years, Prague has seen a surge in the number of people offering their rooms and apartments for...

 
Most favourite

History of Czech fine art

What happened in the realm of fine art at the very beginning of the Czech…

Climate

The Czech Republic is a landlocked country located in moderate geographical…

The most significant current discoveries

During the last decade, Czech science has made many revolutionary discoveries…

Czech language

The Czech language belongs to the group of West Slavic languages. From another…