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MfD: New prison capacities sought in Czech Republic

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Prague, Aug 13 (CTK) – Czech prisons are overcrowded and that is why Petr Dohnal, director general of the Prison Service, is looking for new premises where to accommodate the prisoners and he also plans the construction of a new facility, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes yesterday.
There are up to 14 prisoners in a cell in the largest Czech prison in Plzen-Bory, west Bohemia, which has a 1200 bed capacity, MfD writes.
It adds that a mere three years since former president Vaclav Klaus granted an extensive amnesty, there are again more criminals than what the prisons can absorb.
At present, there are 22,255 prisoners while the total capacity of the Czech prisons is 20,831, MfD writes.
Dohnal would like to get back the complex of the former prison in Drahonice, south Bohemia, which now serves as a refugee camp, but it is half-empty, MfD writes.
It writes that Dohnal would also like to reconstruct an empty compound owned by the state.
“We have already seen a few possible buildings,” Dohnal said, but he would not say which has been chosen because he wants to first talk to the locals since having a building full of prisoners “behind the house” is a delicate matter.
He said he would like to start the reconstruction before the year’s end.
MfD writes that 6000 prisoners were released based on Klaus’s amnesty at the beginning of 2013, but its critics said the prisons will quickly fill with criminals soon again, which has happened.
Repeat offenders returned and in addition, the new Penal Code embeds stricter punishments. House arrest punishments are not given because electronic tags have not been introduced as yet, MfD writes.
It writes that former Prion Service head Jiri Tregler believes that the government should seek ways of crime prevention. The Czech Republic has four times more prisoners per capita than Western Europe, Tregler said.
“Politicians, with a few exceptions, are not interested in prisons. The prisoners constitute a negligible percentage of voters,” Tregler said.
He said the Czech judiciary sends to prison people who should not be imprisoned. “For instance, the Czech Republic is one of a few European countries where a person can be sent to prison for the failure to pay maintenance,” Tregler said.
In Germany, a much greater emphasis is placed on financial penalties, which account for 80 percent of sentences given by courts, he said.
Czech Ombudsman Anna Sabatova is critical of the Czech prison system.
“Czech prison are designed for the mass accommodation of prisoners, which is not in consistence with the modern principles of the service of the prison sentence. Mainly bad hygienic conditions, limited activities outside the cells and an increased tension generate problems,” MfD quotes Sabatova as saying.

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