Prisoners to forgo food in protest over jails

Inmates in 20 prisons across the country are to start a hunger strike next week to protest overcrowding and lengthy pre-trial detention periods, a prisoners’ rights group said yesterday. Hundreds of inmates, from prisons including Attica’s Korydallos and Crete’s Alikarnassos, are to launch their action by boycotting their respective mess halls from Monday before starting an all-out hunger strike on Saturday. According to representatives of the Initiative for Prisoners’ Rights, the inmates are demanding better conditions in jail and restrictions on the amount of time that detainees awaiting trial must spend behind bars. With 10,983 inmates crammed into jails designed to hold just 7,543, Greek prisons are among the most overcrowded in Europe. Long pre-trial detentions exacerbate the problem. According to the Council of Europe, the average period of pre-trial detention in Greece is a full year (365 days), nearly three times that in other European Union states. Prisoners want Greece to satisfy EU standards in this respect and are also demanding better medical care and for social and political representatives to be granted easier access to prisons. «We are not suffering under the delusion that the ministry will accept all our demands – our goal is one small victory to bring a breath of fresh air into this oppressive situation,» Panos Lambrou of the prisoners’ support group told yesterday’s press conference. The event was attended by politicians of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) as well as academics and writers.