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Prisoner demands preferential treatment

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The Constitutional Court dealt with a unique case on Tuesday. A convicted murderer complains about having to deal with cigarette smoke from his fellow prisoners and demands a compensation from the state. Lower courts shook their hands at the case, but the highest legal authority in the country concluded that they should look into it and ordered them to do so.

Let’s have a look at the case itself first. If we give space to our spontaneous reaction, it is all quick and simple – how does that butcher dare? He should just sit with his mouth shut and not demand protection from society to which he poses a threat. Moreover, he is asking for protection that most waiters and waitresses do not have with the current “anti-smoking” legislation. Based on the prison’s reaction, this Albert Žirovnický seems like a habitual complainer who added some extra colour to the story.

But the whole situation is more complicated just as the constitution guards indicate. If we substitute the cigarette smoke with another means of damaging someone’s health, it all ceases to be so obvious. Would you approve of a chemical substance causing stomach cancer to be added to the prisoners’ meals? Or to have their health damaged in any other way? The Constitutional Court announced through the mouth of the judge reporter Jiří Nykodým, that prisoners have an equal right for health protection like anybody else since it is their fundamental right. Through the refusal to deal with the case, the lower courts affected this fundamental right granted by the constitution.

Prisoners’ rights represent a complicated matter altogether. Great Britain is currently in the midst of a heated debate on the rights of the offenders of one of the most horrible recent cases: A mother passively watched as her sadistic partner, who had been sentenced for raping a 2-year-old girl, tortured her son until the boy died. Last week the period preventing the names of the offenders to be published expired and so did the time when the two were able to walk freely among other prisoners. The case caused such horror and disgust that there existed a real possibility that the other prisoners would take justice into their hands. But this social protection costs tax payers extra money, and they are understandably angry: Our money is being spent to protect this type of people?

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