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Czech prisons overcrowded again five years after Klaus’s amnesty

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Prague, Dec 29 (CTK) – Czech prisons are overcrowded again, with 22,000 inmates and the prison capacities filled at 106 percent, five years after a vast amnesty which was declared by outgoing president Vaclav Klaus but improved the situation only temporarily.

Based on the amnesty, 28.5 percent of prisoners were released in early 2013, but a part of them resumed criminal activities and returned behind the bars soon.

The crime rate rose by 7 percent after the amnesty.

Prison Service director Petr Dohnal told journalists recently that the number of prisoners increased mainly at the beginning of 2017.

In early 2016, there were 20,866 prisoners. Their number rose to 22,481 this January and to 22,711 in August, since when it has been stagnating. Experts, however, expected the stagnation much earlier.

In reaction to the rising number of prisoners, the government has repeatedly approved reinforcements of the prison staff, whose total number is to reach 7,624 next year.

The Prison Service, however, has problem attracting new wardens, mainly in Prague and other big towns. It expects a new recruitment allowance to improve the situation as of January. The allowance will be the highest, 50,000 crowns, in Prague.

Dohnal said he believes that the electronic monitoring tags will bring a partial relief to prisons and wardens after being introduced next spring for those sentenced to house arrest.

The Czech Republic’s 35 prisons have been tackling shortage of capacities for many years.

By January 1, 2013, when Klaus’s controversial amnesty took effect, there were a total of 22,638 inmates in the prisons, 6,471 of whom were subsequently released.

The Prison Service then mothballed three prisons and abolished one as redundant. However, it gradually reopened all the facilities except of that in Vysni Lhoty, north Moravia, which serves as a foreigner detention centre now.

At present, many prison facilities are being extended to offer a larger capacity, and a new prison in Vsechov, south Bohemia, is to be built in four years.

Dohnal said he wants prison cells to be shared by two prisoners only in the future, and prisoners to be placed in cells based on their personal features as a measure to prevent bullying.

The amnesty Klaus declared at the end of his second mandate applied to more than 111,000 convicts and prosecuted suspects, mostly to those with a suspended sentence, but also to 20,000 people sentenced to prison.

The amnesty also halted the prosecution of 265 suspects, including those figuring in big cases of financial crime, for which it came under criticism.

Over a half of the released prisoners faced prosecution again in two years, prevailingly over property crimes.

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