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Changes in the criminal code: Non-payers of alimony should no longer end up in prison

The prison population could be reduced by up to ten percent if proposed changes to the criminal code are passed. Currently, the Ministry of Justice has to deal with a number of comments, and then the government should discuss the code. If the changes pass, alternative punishments will be more often imposed in the Czech Republic for acts for which the courts have so far sent convicts to prison. For example, for non-payment of alimony. Some acts would not be criminalized at all.

Changes to the criminal code could reduce the number of prisoners by a tenth. You read the article. Illustrative image

| Photo: Shutterstock

The Czech Republic has one of the largest prison populations in Europe, although the number of crimes has decreased with small fluctuations in recent years. At the end of February, prison capacity was 97 percent full.

“High number of prisoners, when there are more than a hundred prisoners for one professional employee of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic, makes it difficult to apply an individual approach and ensure the necessary availability and scope of professional services. For this reason, it is necessary to apply changes to the criminal policy in the form of a reduction in criminal repression,” the Government Council for Human Rights pointed out earlier.

Czech prisons are bursting at the seams. According to experts, the solution is not the construction of new facilities, but a change in the approach to punishment:

Overcrowded prisons?  More frequent imposition of alternative and monetary penalties is helpful.  Illustrative image

The Czech Republic is a safe country, but it has too many prisoners. They have alternative punishments to fix it

The amendment to the Criminal Code, on which experts have sent their comments in recent days, should deal with this. “There are a lot of comments, but the things we perceive as essential have support,” said Jana Smiggels Kavková, president of the Association of Organizations in the field of prisons.

Among the fundamental changes, he considers, for example, a change in the approach to repeated petty theft. Previously, experts pointed out that these recidivists often receive similarly high sentences as perpetrators of much more serious crimes. Lower penalties should also apply for drug crimes in the case of marijuana or psychotropic mushrooms.

The proposed amendment also provides for a different conversion of the monetary penalty to the execution of the sentence, according to which the offenders would have shorter sentences. Otherwise, he also looks at the accumulation of punishments.

Prison doesn’t scare people away

Prison for is highly debated non-payment of alimony. According to the draft, courts would no longer send perpetrators behind bars for this act. “There were a lot of comments about not paying child support, with the argument being that prison has a deterrent effect. But this is not supported by anything. It doesn’t work in Europe either,” noted Smiggles Kavková.

Where is non-payment of alimony the biggest problem and where do defaulters owe the most?

Last year, the police handled more than six thousand cases of non-payment of alimony.  This is a slight decrease from the previous year and about three-fifths less than ten years ago.

How Czechs (don’t) pay alimony: See how your region is doing. What is the height

Earlier, the National Economic Council of the Government (NERV) also drew attention to this in its recommendations, according to which closing for alimony doesn’t make much sense. At the end of April, there were 19,841 prisoners in the Czech Republic.

“A considerable share is made up of people whom the court sent behind bars precisely for non-payment of alimony, and thus make up six percent of the total number of prisoners. In addition, a tenth of convicts are convicted each year for this and similar crimes, such as unauthorized possession of a payment card,” said economist and NERV member Mojmír Hampl some time ago.

A burden on the state coffers

Imprison people not exactly a cheap thing. One prisoner costs approximately 650 thousand crowns annually, so the state treasury spends approximately thirteen billion crowns on prisons. Even with these numbers in mind, economists recommended that courts use alternative punishments more often.

If the changes in the criminal code were to be implemented, Smiggels Kavková estimates that number of prisoners in the Czech Republic could be reduced by up to ten percent, which means roughly two thousand prisoners. At the same time, she added that Czech judges impose a lot of alternative punishments.

The problem, however, is that a large number of them end up being converted into a prison sentence. Here, experts see an opportunity for specialized programs with convicts to help prevent such conversions.

Almost nine percent of prisoners in the Czech Republic are women. They go behind bars because of poverty and addictions:

World experts are calling for a change in the concept of prisons, and the Czech Republic is not avoiding this trend either.  An example could be the upcoming community prison just for women.  Illustrative photo.

More and more women are heading to prisons. There are five most common reasons why they go behind bars

But in recent years, less and less money has gone into these programs. Experts warn that conditions have worsened enough that many organizations will have to cut back on clients or close programs altogether. This can negatively affect the reduction of the number of prisoners and their recidivism.

“We know from our member organizations that they will receive an average of forty percent of the funds they need for the programs next year. If they wanted to keep the programs, they would have to finance sixty percent of the costs from other sources, which is sometimes unrealistic for non-profit organizations,” explained Romana Dimmroth, head of the probation program at the Ratolest organization.

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