Prison Service criticised for prison calendar featuring female silhouettes

Last year the Czech Prison Service decided to commission a calendar for 2007 that would be just "a little bit different", a calendar featuring shapely female silhouettes - mostly anonymous arms and legs - behind bars. Now, two months into the new year, the finished product has come under fairly heavy fire, with critics in the media questioning the calendar's appropriateness and overall worth.

Ahead of 2007, the Czech Prison Service opted for an original public relations exercise, which now seems to have backfired. Their decision to publish an artistic calendar with female models has attracted criticism, with many saying the idea itself is inappropriate and the end result a tacky affair. By contrast, defenders of the project have pointed out that the use of the female form expressed not eroticism but something different: humanity or dynamism in spaces understandably bleak. A little earlier I spoke to Ludek Kula, the head of the Prison Service.

"Someone may think that the calendar features nudes, but that isn't the case. Not everything that's been written about the calendar is true, and I don't think that there is anything to be ashamed of. If anything, I think that the calendar expresses hope: one photo shows two hands intertwined behind bars. Certainly, when you photograph prison space you can't see it through rose-coloured glasses: prison is always about pain and unhappiness. But in the pictures in the calendar I think there is a feeling of hope."

The calendar is the work of photographer Jakub Ludvik, who has made a name for himself shooting portraits of Czech celebrities. The man who hired him - Ludek Kula - says that he is standing by the calendar, despite all the unexpected controversy.

"I think I'm a fairly dynamic person and I want to do things that I think are right. I won't withdraw into a corner and say that the Prison Service will never again publish a calendar. But in the future I will be more careful. On the other hand, despite everything that's been presented by the media I can say I've had a lot of positive response within the Prison Service itself. "

According to Ludek Kula interest in the calendar has increased thanks to all the publicity. But the work and its complementary diary are not for sale: you can only receive them as gifts. Regarding the appropriateness of the whole project, Mr Kula's boss, the Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil, has indicated he will now look into the whole business: it seems that even he has not yet made up his mind whether projects like this year's calendar are really all that appropriate, or whether 250,000 crowns (the equivalent of around 11, 000 USD dollars) allocated to the project were well spent.