Czech firms increasingly keen to employ prisoners

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio

Companies in the Czech Republic are increasingly interested in employing prisoners, Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. According to data from the country’s prisons authority, around 8,800 of a total prison population of 20,000 have jobs.

Photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
This is a considerable increase on the situation 20 years ago, when just over a third of the incarcerated were employed, the business daily said.

The majority of prisoners work in manual jobs such as in assembly, warehouses, recycling, construction and clean-up work.

A representative of the company KAWE manufacture told Hospodářské noviny that such employment was good for both the prisoners and the state, with the former able to pick up working habits that could serve them well on release; their earnings can also help them settle debts.

Alena Marešová, a sociologist focused on prisons since the 1960s, said many behind bars took advantage of work opportunities as a way to fill the time.

Pay is related to level of expertise required. Unskilled work brings prisoners basic pay of CZK 5,500 a month. Convicts with trades can pick up over CZK 8,000, while those with a Master’s title can make as much as CZK 13,750, Hospodářské noviny said.

However, deductions are made from those salaries toward alimony, cost of imprisonment, social and health insurance and savings accounts. This leaves convicts with around a fifth of the total amount.

Czech prisoners are frequently better off than their counterparts in other parts of Europe, Hospodářské noviny said. For instance, the basic prisoner’s pay in Sweden is equivalent to around CZK 5,000.

Employers are understandably most interested in prisoners who are allowed to work outside their place of incarceration. For example, lights manufacturer Modus has employed roughly 2,500 of such prisoners, in its warehouses and doing assembly, over more than a decade.

Prisoners are also able to work as electricians, cooks, plumbers and joiners, though these are professions that are hard to make use of inside correctional facilities.

However, one jail, at Vinařice in Central Bohemia, has its own production line making traffic signs and cables, as well as running a call centre, Hospodářské noviny said.

In a recent report E15 said that prisoners in the Czech Republic earned a total of CZK 65.5 million in 2018, which was four times higher than the figure five years earlier.

Of 35 ordinary and remand jails, 28 were involved in a national prisoner employment programme, the newspaper said.