ATHENS – Greek prisons have 20 percent more inmates than they can hold, along with a shortage of staff for new facilities Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou admitted.
Athanasiou made the comments when he appeared before Parliament’s Justice Committee to answer questions on the state of Greek jails. He said that the prison system’s maximum capacity at the moment is to hold 9,886 inmates but has almost 12,000. “This is a statistic that saddens me,” said Athanasiou.
He said the government is in the process of building new jails or new wings to existing prisons but that it would also need to hire new staff, which it can’t do because it’s firing public workers to suit international lenders.
“We are asking for at least 500 prison employees,” said Athanasiou, adding that he has been in contact with the Finance Ministry about securing these hirings.
Earlier this year Athanasiou announced a one-year pilot scheme to introduce electronic tagging in a bid to ease overcrowding at prisons. It hasn’t begun because two of the companies that bid for the contract appealed the decision to award the deal to another firm, the minister informed MPs.
“The tag will work well, we all have to support it,” said Athanasiou, adding that a court had recently rejected the companies’ appeals, paving the way for the scheme to begin. Prisoners will have to pay 15 euros per day to wear a tag.
They will also have to remain at home while wearing the device. He didn’t explain how people who can’t work would come up with 450 euros a month.
Despite the overcrowding, Athanasiou said that the ministry is trying to figure out ways for conjugal visits so prisoners can have sex.