Although the government has announced that - contrary to the task determined in its declaration - the commencement of the construction of the new Liepaja Prison planned in 2020 is postponed for two years, the Ministry of Justice does not change its position in relation to the need to arrange the infrastructure of the places of imprisonment. According to the opinion of the Ministry of Justice, this decision once more demonstrates the very formal attitude of the government towards the arrangement of the legal industry and conflicts with the international obligations undertaken by the Latvian state to arrange the system of the places of imprisonment and to provide modern resettlement with the purpose to reduce crime. It is not possible to introduce the new penalty enforcement policy and relevant legal framework in Latvia, if there are no relevant circumstances provided for employees of the places of imprisonment for work with prisoners.
The current government is the 21st government in a row, whose declaration about the planned activities included the issue about modernisation of the infrastructure of the places of imprisonment and introduction of a new penalty enforcement policy (see the enclosed summary and info graph). The need of a new prison has been discussed already for longer than 12 years. Two procurements were implemented during this period of time and at the end the government has postponed the construction of the prison both times. Estonia has meanwhile completed the reform of the places of imprisonment, closing all old 12 prisons and building 3 new prisons - in total investing more than 208.8 million euros in the infrastructure of the places of imprisonment.
“It is sad that history repeats during formation of the budget. Unlike other industries, we did not request the funding for building of any administrative building, but rather for arrangement of the infrastructure of more than 115 years old prisons, the technical condition of which is close to the critical one. The decision to postpone building of the prison only increases uncertainty, when the project of the new prison could be implemented. If we talked about three to four years a week ago, then today we have to talk already about five or six years. Who will undertake responsibility for the safety of public and staff of the places of imprisonment during this additional period of time?”, emphasizes Janis Bordans, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice.
“Obviously a part of politicians had unfortunately so far not understood that well arranged infrastructure of the places of imprisonment is a preventive measure for reduction of crime. Namely, reduction of repeated crime. At the same time I am satisfied that as a result of quite difficult and tough discussions we have managed to achieve additional funds for remuneration of employees of the Prison Administration with special service ranks, the State Probation Service, as well as judge assistants and secretaries,”, adds J.Bordans.
Approximately 11 million euros from the State budget were invested only for maintenance of the current infrastructure of the places of imprisonment and emergency repairs during 2014 - 2018, besides the maintenance of the outworn and inappropriate infrastructure during further years in order to guarantee the safety of public and personnel, will require even more financial means, which does not facilitate effective use of the funds of the State budget at all.
“The need for a new prison is not the issue of only one minister, but rather the common responsibility of the whole government. If appropriate resettlement conditions are provided at the place of imprisonment, then the state ends the vicious cycle with eternally cared prisoners, returning them to society and labour market,” emphasizes Ilona Spure, the Head of the Prison Administration, General.