Sewn mouths, deaf ears

Around the country, the inmates of our prisons, places that have been justifiably dubbed «storerooms for souls,» are staging protests in the form of hunger strikes. Although state officials admit that many of their demands are justified and despite the widespread solidarity shown to them, they are not hopeful that their demands will be met. For good reason. The current uprising is just one more in a long chain of similar protests. A year ago, the same thing happened – and the same promises were made to them by the Justice Ministry that conditions would improve. In the intervening months, however, conditions have worsened and Greece still has the largest percentage in Europe (one in three) of prisoners awaiting trial, for periods that are twice the European average. Our jails are home to the greatest percentage of foreign prisoners in Europe. For immigrants, unfortunately, even a misdemeanor means incarceration. Our prisons are still the most overcrowded, with 13,000 inmates squeezed into facilities designed to accommodate a maximum 7,500. Hundreds of children are locked away in juvenile detention centers, where they are sure to be prepared for a life of crime upon release. Hundreds of drug addicts are locked up, ensuring not only that they will never be rehabilitated, but that the prisons will become profitable hunting grounds for drug-traffickers. The prisoners’ demands are clear enough, even if the prisons’ advisory council doesn’t think so. Is the demand to do away with children’s prisons «unclear»? Is it «unclear» to demand implementation of the prison code and to raise obstacles to the tyranny of wardens who use their powers to vent their own frustrations? For those who don’t take the trouble to listen, perhaps the sight of the three prisoners in Trikala who sewed up their own mouths will convince them of the clarity of their demands.