Greece: the humanitarian crisis in prison


                        Athens, 20th of November 2014

Currently, the total number of prisoners across the country is 12.018, while the capacity is only for 9.286 prisoners, which means that there is over-population by 29,42%. However, both these numbers are not real: they do not include individuals detained in jails and the capacity includes wards of prisons that have been shut down, or are not fully functioning (for example certain wards in Nigritta Prison in Serres and Korydallos Penitentiary)

According to the Ministry of Justice, 70% of prisoners are resourceless and incapable to cover the financial cost of their basic needs (for example products for personal hygeine and food). The state budget for prisons is 108 million euro (following a decrease from 136 million in 2009). In comparison, the Netherlands has a state budget of 2 billion euro for the same number of prisoners.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the cost per prisoner is up to 28.000 euro per annum. But this amount includes the cost of prison maintenance, current expenses for running the prisons, the staff salaries and all expenses of each detention centre. For the daily sustenance of prisoners the approved budget is only of 5,85 euro, which is 2.135 euro per annum for each prisoner.

A few days earlier, an announcement was made for a new bill that can give foreign prisoners the possibility to complete their sentences in their country of origin. The purpose of this law is to decrease the number of prisoners, in order to aid cuts on the state budget for prisons. At the same time, the Red Cross in Greece has called large corporations to donate and help gather food for prisons (sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon and different types of dry food). Similar efforts are made by other NGOs, the church or societies that collect clothes, food and medications for prisoners. This humanitarian crisis in prisons is a fact: prisoners are malnourished and there is lack of basic products ( blankets, clothes, etc) and objects of personal hygiene (soap, toilet paper, toothpaste) while they are forced to experience atrocious conditions of detention (lack of heating/air-conditioning, overpopulation, humidity, lack of hygiene.) The social services of prisons which are understaffed, are dealing with the difficult and exhausting task of having to collect products to offer to the resourceless prisoners and seek donations wherever possible. So, the purpose of these services, which is to support prisoners for as long as they remain in prison and to prepare them for their re-entry into society, is no longer possible to achieve. Even worse, in certain prisons there are no social services and this responsibility is delegated to the manager or the prison guards.

We have tried to collect data from all prisons that suffer from high rates of overpopulation, to highlight the great humanitarian crisis that arose in prisons across Greece.

Kos: according to data by the Ministry of Justice the capacity of the prison cannot exceed 45 prisoners, however there are 174 individuals detained there. The beds have been turned into bunk beds, doubling the available places, but the rest of the men are sleeping on mattresses placed on the floor or on camp beds. There are no social services in this prison, despite the fact that 80% of prisoners suffer from poverty. Hot water is available for prisoners, since solar water heaters have been installed in the prison a few years back. The prison can no longer take any new prisoners due to overpopulation. There is lack in many kinds of basic products (clothes, shoes, shampoo, coffee, pay-phone cards and cigarettes). The prison manager is asking for hotels in the surrounding area to make donations in order to cover the needs for these products.

Thiva: There is capacity for 300 prisoners, but currently 352 women are detained there, out of which 280 are resourceless. The lack in clothes, shoes, shampoo, detergent for hand washing their clothes and pay-phone cards is very serious. The quantity of the food offered to prisoners has decreased very much. Meat is very rarely included in the meals and there is almost never a dessert or a piece of fruit. Donations from an organization that used to support prisoners by donating 10 euro per fortnight for every prisoner, have stopped for the last two years. There is serious lack of medications especially for children.

Alikarnassos: Prison capacity is for 105 prisoners and currently there are 312 people detained there. Beds have been turned into bunk beds to accommodate the large number of prisoners. Lack in clothes, shoes and pay-phone cards is severe and access to hot water is very limited as it does not run long enough. There are soap-making facilities in this prison, so the needs of prisoners for this product are covered. There is a serious lack of medications.

Neapoli: 118 individuals are detained in this prison while capacity cannot exceed 45 prisoners. Due to changes made, capacity has increased to 65. There are no social services and the needs of prisoners are covered by prison management and the prison guards. 50% of prisoners are poor. There is serious lack in basic products and medications.

Nauplio: The available places are 314 and there are 605 people detained there, out of which 150 are resourceless. There is lack in hygienic products, coffee, pay-phone cards, sugar, clothes and shoes.

Tripoli: 199 are detained in a prison built for 69 prisoners. In this prison, there are wards housing 30-45 people, which means that the floor space available for every prisoner is 1 square metre. The entertainment rooms have been turned into wards due to the large number of prisoners. 60% of prisoners are resourceless. There is lack of social services, apart from a psychologist trying to cover the aspect of mental health.

Amfissa: the available places are 100 and there are 210 prisoners detained there. There has not been any effort to turn beds into bunk beds and because of that, many prisoners are forced to sleep on the ground.

Malandrino: The prison population has reached 536 while prison capacity is 440. The resourceless prisoners are 80% of the prison population.There is a serious lack of clothing for the prisoners and hygienic products. Hot water lasts only for a little while. The entertainment rooms have been turned into wards. Social services offer packages containing basic products (soap, slippers, clothes) to 100 prisoners every moth. Donations are very rare because the prison is built in a remote area.

Larissa: 825 individuals are detained in a prison with a capacity for 500 prisoners. There are serious issues regarding sustenance. There is lack of fish, even for those following doctor’s orders for special diets. There is also lack of fruit and dessert. Hot water only lasts only for a few minutes every day. The heaters are on, only for one hour every day. There is serious lack of basic products such as clothes, slippers, underwear, shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper.

Source: Initiative for Prisoners Rights
Translation: BlackCat

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