Latvian prison system the prospects for future development
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Centre for Public Policy. LATVIAN PRISON SYSTEM – THE PROSPECTS FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT. Ilona Kronberga. Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS: Ilona Kronberga. “One of the most amazing things about prisons is that they ‘work’ at all….”.


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Centre for Public Policy


Ilona Kronberga

Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS: Ilona Kronberga

“One of the most amazing things about

prisons is that they ‘work’ at all….”

Cressey, D. (ed.) (1961). The Prison: Studies in Institutional Organization.

NY: Holt, Rinehart, Winston (p.2).

Brief background information on prisons in Latvia

Today there are 11 prisons and one correctional institution for juvenilesin Latvia

Total number of inmates is ~6900

but in the beginning of this year was 7055

Location of inmates in prisons

  • Correctional institution for juveniles -1,4 %

  • Open prisons - 3,0 %

  • Semi-closed prisons - 13,3 %

  • Closed prisons - 54,1 %

  • Investigative prisons - 28,2 %

Released in 2009 year

Total number - 2511 including:

  • after the end of the sentence period – 1892

  • before the end of the sentence period – 600

  • released owing to hard illness - 11

  • released owing to amnesty - 8

The challenges we face in our prison system

  • Education and employment of inmates;

  • Prison infrastructure, including new facilities;

  • Minors and young people in prisons;

  • Necessity for a new legal framework for enforcement of sentences - new Sentence EnforcementLaw;

  • Seriously evaluated reform of prison personnel.

From a legal point of view the prison environment is very sensitive:

“…every instance of brutality in prisons,

every casual racist joke and demeaning

remark, every ignored petition, every

unwarranted bureaucratic delay, every

inedible meal, every arbitrary decision to

segregate or transfer without giving clear

and unfounded reasons, every petty

miscarriage of justice, every futile and

inactive period of time — is delegitimating”

Sparks, R. and Bottoms, A.E. (1995). ‘Legitimacy and Order in Prisons’,

The British Journal of Sociology, 46, 1, 45-62 (p.60).

We have to reform education and employment systems for inmates

The educational process in prisons is organized in line with “Education Policy Guidelines for Inmates 2006 – 2012”

68,3% of all inmates are aged 22 - 40 reform education and employment systems for inmates

Among convicted persons there are many people who have a low level of general education. For example - lower than 23% of convicts do not have any elementary education.

Employment of inmates is one of the most intricate tasks

  • 1 141 inmates were employed in 2009. 632 of them have worked in the prisons crew. 509 working places for convicts were set up by businessmen.The average employment rate during the year was 23% of all working-aged.

  • 1379 inmates were employed in 2008. 711 of them have worked in the prisons crew. 671 working places for convicts were set up by businessmen. The average employment rate during the year was 24% of all working-aged.

Inmates employment...

In 2008 the Ministry of Justice drafted the concept paper to establish a new employment system for inmates.

Ministry of Justice is going to establish new regulatory approaches for:

  • legal status of inmates, stating that prisoners who are employed are a special category of employed persons;

  • legal status of employers according to the type of prisons in which they work;

  • determination of differences for employment of the convicted persons, forms and framework of the cooperation between merchants and prisons administration;

Ministry of Justice is going to establish new regulatory approaches for:

  • wages for inmates;

  • forms of inmates employment, to ensure for them the acquisition of vocation which helps in the job market after release from prison;

  • social guarantee for the employed prisoners, including the release from prison etc.

...some thoughts...

  • Penal reformers support the idea that prison has not always been the answer, but ministers in private often agreed, that it seems nothing will ever change.

  • Nowadays, everything happens in prisons, except what there should be.

  • I love the Lord becauseHe loves our prisons indeed, because otherwise they would not exist.

We should significantly improve prison infrastructure, including new premises (cells) for inmates

  • On 20.03.2007 in Cabinet of Ministers considered the informative report of Ministry of Justice about the shortcomings and their whys and wherefores in prisons, in order to plan the work and to take the possible decisions to eliminate the shortages.

  • On 03.04.2008 a conception of development of prison infrastructure was announcedin the Meeting of the State Secretaries.

  • The main goal of the concept is to draft a new prison system where it is possible to provide effective sentence enforcement as well as to offer better solutions of attracting finances for building of new prison and in that way providing electivity of sentence enforcement and increasing public safety of dangers when the system of prisons is unsafe.

To improve prison infrastructure at the moment

Ministry of Justice has againset upa new version of prison infrastructure concept which provides for:

  • drafting a prison system based on new principles;

  • only one new prison construction (DBO-project) for 1000 inmates;

  • project investments: ~ 70 million lats in 30 years period including risk costs, infrastructure operating costs and costs of reconstruction in this period.

    The Ministry of Justice intends to submit this project to the government in these days.

We should keep out of prison minors and young people as long as possible, but if they are in prison, it is a priority target group


Juveniles (percentage of prison population)2.1% Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population) 314based on an estimated national population of 2.25 million at beginning of 2010 (from Eurostat figures)

Estonia: Juveniles = 1.0%

Finland: = 0.1%

Russia: = 0.9%

Romania: = 1.7%

Belarus: = 1,2%

Poland: = 0,6%

Ukraine: = 1,0%

Necessity for a new legal framework forenforcement of sentences

  • entered into force 01.04.1971

  • was established 23.12.1970

The personnel reform

“While the prison system was transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Justice in 2000, in 2007 the prison system remains significantly militarised with soviet style military management. Moreover, since 2006 the Prison Service ceased to be part of civil service. Directors of the 15 prisons, deputies and heads of service are officers, as about third of staff and ranks remain the same as with the police and border guards.”[1]

[1] Latvia, Shadow Report to the UN Committee against Torture; October 2007; Latvian Centre for Human Rights (page 14).

We should carry out seriously a well-consideredpersonnel reform, including establishment of the education system for prison officials

We have often faced situations when we can say...

..a prison environment provides considerable opportunity for the capricious and arbitrary exercise of power, and for authorities to act based on personal prejudice and implicit bias

However, if people realize their mission...

...power - is an obligation, but freedom – responsibility, and so it has always been

We will make the changes together!

Thank you!

Ilona Kronberga,

Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS

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