Jailbreak investigation finds faults in prison regime

An investigation into a prisoner's escape from the Riga Central Prison earlier this year has not yet been completed, but mistakes have been found by prison staff. However, the escapee, a man arrested for attempted murder, already recorded numerous other violations while serving his sentence, Dmitrijs Kaļins, head of the Prisons Administration, told Latvian Radio in an interview November 2.

Kaļins emphasized that it seemed that it was not a pre-planned or organized jailbreak.

"As part of the inspection, we found deficiencies in the security and monitoring work, insufficient performance of the [prison] service, which ultimately created the possibility of spontaneous escape," Kaļins said.

"Researching other events and his behavior while incarcerated, he was in Central Prison for about a year, with many disciplinary infractions already committed during his sentence. He has attempted to arbitrarily leave the premises when spoken to by staff or other law enforcement officials who come to speak with him, " said the head of the administration.

"He is very impulsive, emotional, so I think it was an impulse of the moment, seeing the possibility that the employees might have bad communication with each other, maybe someone turned away, didn't pay attention. A chance of the moment."

The escape happened when the prisoners were being taken for a day's walk, according to the agenda. "There was a flow of prisoners from the building to the walking areas, and at one point he [the prisoner] went towards the restricted area towards the fence to make an escape," Kaļins said. Now going for walks is more strictly monitored.

A total of 16 disciplinary cases have been initiated. "I want to reassure the employees - this does not immediately mean that there will be punishment. The disciplinary case can also end with the fact that we found that someone acted in accordance with the situation at the time and did what needed to be done. But if we find that they did not do something that should have been done, then we decide on the application of disciplinary punishment," Kaļins explained.

According to him, prisoners are fully aware that the prison service is short-staffed by about 20% and that this might be exploited. 

In the next year's budget, however, additional funding is provided for increasing the salaries of prison guards – salaries will increase by 8-10%. The average salary of an experienced guard-supervisor is around 950 euros net, including nighttime work, while the salary of a new employee is around 830 euros net, Kaļins said.

On July 23 of this year, the prisoner Māris Kovaļovs, born in 1993, escaped from the Riga Central Prison at around 1:45 p.m. The State Police launched extensive measures to search for the person and he was recaptured within a few hours.

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