The Public Defender of Rights - The monitoring of the current pandemic measures in prisons
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The monitoring of the current pandemic measures in prisons

18. 05. 2020

The Deputy Ombudsman, Monika Šimůnková, being entrusted with the supervision of places where personal freedom is restricted, is regularly monitoring the current situation in prisons. As it is not possible to carry out personal visits in prisons under the current circumstances, Ms. Šimůnková and her colleagues conduct a research on the COVID-19 protective measures taken in prisons.

As the Deputy stated, current situation did not interrupt handling of written complaints of prisoners. She already received several complaints from prisoners regarding the conduct of the Prison Service in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the Deputy turned to the General Directorate of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic to find out what measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease and how prisoners and the staff are protected. She was particularly interested whether the rights of prisoners have been restricted, and if so, what compensatory measures have been offered.

The representatives of the Prison Service replied that increased hygiene measures were adopted in places of accommodation of convicts, visits of prisoners were prohibited. Disinfection, respirators, protective gloves, suits, shields, etc. are provided in all prisons. Employees are divided into several groups so that they meet as little as possible in the organizational unit. Both prisoners and prison staff are required to wear veils and almost every prison sews them in its workshops, not only for the Prison Service but also for further distribution. In case of infection, health care is secured both in the prison system and in the non-prison health care. Anti-pandemic measures have been also prepared in cases of suspected infection or positive results of the infection tests.

As for the compensations offered to the prisoners, time for allowed phone and Skype calls with families has been prolonged, time allowances for walks and sports activities have increased, the additional weight limit for allowed packages with food and personal belongings or the possibility to purchase these goods in the prison shop in the amount of up to CZK 1,500 have been introduced.

Only lawyers, police, public prosecutors and entities of the Integrated Rescue System may enter the prisons. As for the criminal proceedings, contactless method of communication is preferred, i.e. video conference or Skype. Moreover, the employment of the imprisoned persons has been adjusted.

As for now, the Ministry of Justice is considering the possibility of postponing the commencement of the custodial sentence in case of less serious crimes. As of April 15, 2020, no prisoner was positive for COVID-19.
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