A dog; gates closing behind each person or driver; barbed wire on the fence; surveillance cameras. Physical security. Rīga Central Prison is being guarded firmly. But Māris Kovaļovs managed to escape Sunday and spend four hours in freedom. Police carried out am ambitious search operation and found Kovaļovs in Rīga's Sarkandaugava district. He didn't resist arrest as he had injured his leg.
Kovaļovs was awaiting trial in prison. The first instance convicted him of attempted murder. He waited for an appeal. These people are in a different building, but nothing is different from the rest of the prison. The first results of the investigation show that the escape was spontaneous, without allies in prison.
"This is not the most typical or average escapee portrait. So he managed to overcome the prison walls and get out of it, not everyone can do that," Kaļins said.
Rīga Central Prison Chief Raivis Runcis said that the conduct of prison employees will be evaluated during the service inspection. At the time Kovaļovs escaped, there were 18 people at work. "As part of the process, it is these people that will be judged. Those higher up, too,” said Runcis.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice Inese Lībiņa-Egnere said that Latvian society is safe, and this incident has shown that police and prison cooperation is perfect.
“The criminal has been captured. This has been a unique case. Neither in Eīga Central Prison nor in any other place of imprisonment can such a case be repeated,” the Minister for Justice said.
This escape raises an unresolved issue – the matter of pay. On average, a prison guard earns €800, and the number of vacancies is huge. Runcis said that there were 400 vacancies in prisons of in Latvia, 30% of all – in Rīga Central.
“It's the pay. And psychologically hard work. Working with criminals is hard work,” said Runcis.
The Minister for Justice promised that the issue of the remuneration of prison workers would be re-examined at the government level.
“We have talked a lot about this in the government, and the Prime Minister is aware that we will actually want to show this in the budget next year. This is the most important thing to say if we want to attract new employees,” the minister said, adding that new employees will be particularly needed in Liepāja, where Latvia will build a new prison in the coming years.
On Tuesday evening, Internal Affairs Minister Māris Kučinskis (United List) told Latvian Television that he wanted to highlight the police officers whose operational action allowed the prisoner to be detained quickly.
According to Kučinskis, the police worked perfectly in search of the refugee. Kovaļovs was found around six kilometers from the prison – on Sīmaņa Street with his mother.
“I'll encourage the best to be rewarded, or at least mentioned. This is the case where the minister is very pleased with the police work!" said Kučinskis.