Jails have 20 pct too many inmates

Greek prisons are at more than 20 percent over capacity in terms of the number of inmates housed there and there is a shortage of personnel to staff new facilities, Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou admitted on Wednesday.

Athanasiou appeared before Parliament’s justice committee to answer questions on the state of Greek jails. He said that the prison system’s maximum capacity at the moment is to hold 9,886 inmates. However, it is actually holding nearly 12,000, said the minister.

“This is a statistic that saddens me,” said Athanasiou.

He said the government is in the process of building new jails or new wings to existing prisons but that it would also need to hire new staff, which comes into conflict with the effort to reduce the number of civil servants.

“We are asking for at least 500 prison employees,” said Athanasiou, adding that he has been in contact with the Finance Ministry about securing these hirings.

Earlier this year Athanasiou announced a one-year pilot scheme to introduce electronic tagging in a bid to ease overcrowding at prisons. However, the 1-million-euro scheme has not yet started because two of the companies that bid for the contract appealed the decision to award the deal to another firm, the minister informed MPs.

“The tag will work well, we all have to support it,” said Athanasiou, adding that a court had recently rejected the companies’ appeals, paving the way for the scheme to begin. Prisoners will have to pay 15 euros per day to wear a tag. They will also have to remain at home while wearing the device.

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