Closeup of chained sliding grille door. Credit: Freepik

Czech Prison Population Keeps Rising, Leading To Staff Shortages

here are currently 19,689 inmates in Czech prisons. Photo credit: Freepik

Prague, April 24 (CTK) – The number of prisoners in the Czech Republic keeps rising, with around 400 people newly imprisoned last year, and another 640 since the beginning of this year. According to Prison Service director Simon Michailidis, speaking at the weekend, this is leading to staff shortages in prisons.

There are currently 19,689 inmates in Czech prisons.

“It is not normal for a safe, developed country to have 180 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants,” said Michailidis. “Austria and Germany are about as safe as the Czech Republic and have half the number of prisoners.” 

In Germany, a significant part of the prisoners are foreigners from different cultural backgrounds, while in the Czech Republic foreigners make up only about 8% of the prison population, and most of them are Slovaks.

Michailidis said that recently, cases of prisoner aggression towards guards had become much more frequent in prisons. Last year, 48 such cases were registered, while in previous years this number did not exceed ten.

The number of prisoners started to rise in the Czech Republic after 2021. The increase is not related to the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, as the percentage of foreigners in Czech prisons has remained stable for a long time, Michailidis said.

He warned that it was expected that by this time next year, the capacity to accommodate prisoners would not be sufficient.

In addition, as of 1 January 2024, new regulations will come into force requiring the Prison Service to provide each first prisoner in a cell with six square metres of space and others with a minimum of four square metres each. Michailidis said this would reduce the accommodation capacity of Czech prisons by about 10%.

The security corps still has around 1,150 out of 12,000 posts vacant, 800 of which should be filled by officers, such as guards, and the rest by civilian employees.

The worst situations are in Valdice in the Hradec Králové Region, in Plzen, and in the two Prague prisons. The Valdice prison, for example, where about 800 people are serving their sentences under a high security regime, is missing over 25% of staff.

“In the Czech Republic, we do not only imprison those from whom we need to protect ourselves, but also those who have somehow annoyed us,” Michailidis said, summarising the state’s penal policy. He said house arrest and imposition of fines should be used much more. This could be just as unpleasant for the perpetrators, “but they would not have to lose their jobs and their families would not suffer,” he added.

“All of us pay for it,” Michailidis said. “It can be done just as effectively for far less money,” he noted. The Czech state pays an average of CZK 1,900 per prisoner per day, however, other European states like Norway, Sweden and the Benelux countries spend many times more on prisoners, he said.

Last year, Justice Minister Pavel Blazek (ODS) set up a criminal policy group that is preparing measures to reduce the prison population. Deputy Justice Minister Antonin Stanislav told CTK that the experts want to push for more frequent imposition of fines at the expense of prison sentences. He pointed out that in neighbouring Germany, 80% of all punishments are fines.

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