Czech Republic looks to Norway for inspiration in building “humane“ prison

Bastoy Island, photo: Grim23, GFDL 1.2

The Czech judiciary is planning to put into practice the concept of a minimum-security prison after the Norwegian model that has attracted international attention. Tailored after the prison on Bastoy Island the facility in Jiřice, northeast of Prague, should resemble a small self-sustaining village where convicts would have the time and space to prepare for their return to a normal life.

Bastoy Island, photo: Grim23, GFDL 1.2
The prison on Bastoy Island dubbed the world’s “nicest” jailhouse has attracted media crews from around the world. It resembles nothing more than life on a farm where the community members work, cook their own food, have time for leisure activities, access to mobile phones and leave to visit their family. Following consultations with Norwegian prison officials, the Czech judiciary is planning such a prison in the Czech lands – a “transition facility” for convicts serving the last few weeks of their prison sentence. The spokesperson for the Czech Prison Service Petra Kučerová explains:

“The environment of what we call “an open prison” should come as close as possible to normal life. We want to ease the transition for convicts for whom this often presents a serious problem. They will be expected to be more self-sufficient, start making their own decisions about many small everyday things and learn to live in a small community. The environment should not be repressive and isolationist and our trained staff-social workers and psychologists –will be there in the role of aides to help them make the transition successfully.”

Convicts serving the last few weeks of their prison sentence will not be living in prison cells but in regular houses surrounded by farmland where the convicts should farm, breed animals, or work in the garden. Petra Kučerová says this is to heighten their self-sufficiency in daily life.

Illustrative photo: sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“The convicts will live in a housing complex resembling satellite towns –in the first phase there will be four houses with four bedrooms each, a living room and kitchen. This should accommodate 32 convicts who will live and work together, do their own cleaning and cooking. Establishing a daily routine and increasing their self-sufficiency is part of the programme.”

The premises will be surrounded by a concrete wall creating an island which convicts are not supposed to leave unless given permission. Some may volunteer to do community service in the nearby village of Jiřice. The locals have been acquainted with the plan and reportedly have no problem with it. The country’s first minimal-security prison should open at the end of next year and, if it proves successful, the housing facilities should triple within the next few years. In addition to easing the country’s overcrowded prisons it should contribute to a more humane prison system.