Prisons getting less crowded

Latvia's prison system is quite notorious, and inmates routinely turn to the European Court of Human Rights about inhumane treatment in prisons. However, things are slowly but surely getting better, at least according to Ilvija Pūce, the Latvian representative to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, who discussed the subject with Latvian Radio Friday morning. 

According to Ilvija Pūce, the Latvian Prison Administration has done a lot to ensure better conditions in prisons, but the adverse effects of the economic downturn as well as previous unsuccessful prison managers can still be felt.

In the last few years the prison population has rapidly decreased, which is important for the prisons to be more than just "human storage facilities".

The goal of imprisoning criminals is not just to punish but to rehabilitate - to correct a person and make him a member of society again. "Of course, it is not always possible, but we have to try to do the best we can," said Pūce.

According to Pūce, the situation was starkly different a few years ago, with inmates being completely isolated. Even though the society is generally blood-thirsty, it doesn't lead to anything good. If it's possible, a short prison term should be forgone for community service, and a long prison term - for a shorter one.

"Short stints in jail [rather than suspended sentences] are more of a poison than a cure," said Pūce.

The head of the Latvian Prison Administration, Ilona Spure, appeared on LNT channel's 900 Seconds program Friday morning and confirmed that prisons are not severely overpopulated now, with about 4,500 inmates residing in Latvian prisons as of now, with about a third waiting for their sentence.

Latvia has also announced plans to build a new, modern penitentiary in Liepāja, which would be the first jail to be built after Latvia reinstated its independence in 1991. 

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