Sunday's prison escape was spontaneous, says administration

The escape from Rīga Central Prison on Sunday, July 23, was spontaneous, the Chief of Prisons Administration Dmitrijs Kaļins told Latvian Radio Monday. Criminal proceedings have been initiated and a service inspection has also been launched.

Kaļins said that the prisoner's escape had seemingly not been planned before. “The officials saw the fact of the escape themselves, acted immediately, followed him. In parallel, we also reported to the State Police and launched extensive search work," said Kaļins.

Criminal proceedings were launched on Sunday, but on Monday a service inspection has been launched with the task of assessing the actions of officials. “Following this, conclusions will be reached on whether there are grounds for encouraging disciplinary proceedings against an official,” Kaļins said.

Minister for Justice Inese Lībiņa-Egnere (New Unity) said that not only the conditions of the prisoner's escape will be assessed, but also the appropriateness of the infrastructure in detention facilities.

“I have issued a minister resolution on carrying out a comprehensive inspection,” the Minister for Justice said on Twitter.

State Police Chief Criminal Police Administration chief Andrejs Grišins told Latvian Radio that during his arrest the escapee Māris Kovaļovs did not fight back. Medical treatment was provided because he had injured himself while fleeing.

In the meantime, the former Chief of State Police, associate professor Aldis Lieljuksis told Latvian Radio that in Latvia, after the restoration of independence, efforts to escape the prison were rare, but the escape of an inmate from the central prison raises the issue of improving prison infrastructure.

“There has been a moment that the inmate has noticed and used. It has not been associated with some kind of inside help,” said Lieljuksis.

Large-scale prison infrastructure in Latvia is high-quality, according to Lieljuksis.

One of the most known prison escapes in Latvia was nearly 30 years ago when 89 inmates escaped from the Pārlielupe prison in Jelgava. It happened the night on July 28, 1994, using a tunnel dug over a couple of months. Not all of the escapees were found. A smaller-scale escape from that same prison also took place in 1993.

Archive material: Latvian Television broadcast “Panorama” reports the escape of prisoners from Pārlielupe prison

On October 28, 1994, 15 more prisoners escaped from the Grīva prison in Daugavpils. After the two escapes, the then Interior Minister, Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, resigned.

In the years to come, there has been a lot of attention to improving prison infrastructure, and there have not been many escapes. Relatively recently, in March 2015, a man convicted of robbery escaped from Olaine prison. He had managed to saw the bars. He was found and repeatedly arrested a few weeks later.

In November 2021, someone convicted of theft managed to jump over the Jēkabpils prison fence but was found a couple of hours later.

The fact that escapes from prisons are rare indicates that the security situation of prisons in Latvia and the monitoring of prisoners is sufficient, said Lieljuksis.

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