The Slovenia Times

Slovenian prison population surging due to migrant smugglers

An annexe of Slovenia's largest prison in Dob, completed in 2011. Photo: Rasto Božič/STA

Slovenian prisons have been overcrowded for years, but the arrests of hundreds of migrant smugglers in recent years have led to a situation when there is not even nearly enough staff or room for all the inmates.

A total of 1,808 persons were in prison on 26 February, according to the Prison Administration, and the average prison occupancy rate tops 139%. "All men's prisons are overcrowded," the administration told the Slovenian Press Agency.

The situation is worst in Ljubljana, where the occupancy rate is at over 200%. In Maribor (171%) and Celje (165%) it is only slightly better. The largest prison in Slovenia, Dob, has an occupancy rate of 128% at the moment.

According to the Prison Administration, there is a sharp increase in the number of detainees convicted under an article of the Criminal Code that criminalises the smuggling of people across the border. Currently 850 foreigners are in prison for this reason.

"Detention is carried out in eight of the 13 prison locations, so the range of locations for housing detainees is limited and the human resources have been exhausted," the administration said.

Even new prison will not solve the problem

So far, the administration has dealt with overcrowding mainly by transferring prisoners to less overcrowded facilities on a daily basis, by petitioning courts for the transfer of convicted foreigners to their country of origin, and by proposing release on probation for prisoners who meet the conditions.

But now the situation is so dire that the Justice Ministry has got involved in efforts to find solutions, including by proposing emergency measures in draft changes to the Enforcement of Criminal Sanctions Act.

The changes introduce the possibility of early release from prison six months before the end of the sentence rather than three months as is the case now. A deferral of sentences has been proposed as well.

The Prison Administration says that the current situation would not be resolved even if a new men's prison which is being built in Dobrunje, east of Ljubljana, and is slated for completion in 2025, opened today.

The Justice Ministry is also looking into the possibility of reducing the prison sentence for illegal crossing of the border and people smuggling under Article 308 of the Criminal Code.

Understaffed and overcrowded prisons a security risk

The proposed legislative amendments also aim to alleviate the acute lack of prison wardens. In line with the proposal, retired wardens would be allowed to work more.

The Prison Administration admits that understaffed and overcrowded prisons are becoming a security challenge. The 550 staff are not enough and more than a hundred more would be needed.

Prisoners call for amnesty due to unbearable conditions

Prisoners have been raising their voices as well. They have recently sent an anonymous letter to the president, prime minister, Justice Ministry, parliament and several political parties complaining about the unbearable conditions, especially in cells with multiple prisoners. They have proposed an amnesty under the 2001 Amnesty Act.

The Prison Administration does not rule out this option, saying it has been working with the Justice Ministry to find solutions. "We are not ruling out any additional options at this stage, but each option must be technically justified and in line with the key baselines for ensuring security," it says.


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