Bid to free up space in prisons

As overcrowding in the country’s prisons reaches crisis levels, with around 1,400 detainees and convicts being held in police precincts due to the lack of space, a Justice Ministry bill foreseeing the introduction of a tagging system for prisoners on furloughs is to be submitted in Parliament this week.

According to ministry statistics, the number of detainees in the country’s prisons has reached 12,900, which is significantly above the institutions’ maximum capacity, with many inmates reportedly sleeping on floors and in bathrooms. The overcrowding – always a problem in prisons – has intensified in recent months due to a crackdown on crime. The last six months alone have seen a 10 percent increase in the number of detainees being held pending trial.

The bill due to be presented in Parliament this week foresees the use of an electronic monitoring system – widely used in the US and elsewhere in Europe – involving the issuing of ankle bracelets to prisoners. The introduction of the bracelet would allow authorities to be more liberal in the issuing of furloughs, thus creating more space in prisons, though inmates accused of sex offenses, terrorism and other serious crimes would be exempt from the scheme. The cost of each security bracelet – 1,500 euros – is to be charged to the inmate unless they have insufficient funding to cover the expense, sources said.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou has reportedly asked the Finance Ministry to immediately disburse 5 million euros to enable the operation of a new prison in Drama, northern Greece, by September. The Drama institution could accommodate at least half of the detainees and convicts currently being held in police detention cells, according to sources.

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