Overcrowding in prisons requires changes in penal policies in Albania

Overcrowding in prisons requires changes in penal policies in Albania

Tirana, 22 September 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

Albanian prisons are overcrowded and this situation, which continues to precipitate, is worrying, therefore the state must take immediate measures, Ombudsman suggests, asking for penal policies in the country to change.

The head of the Ombudsman office, Igli Topozani, said today that due to the lack of infrastructure, several prisons in the country do not meet their scope for the reintegration of those citizens who have broken the law.

“There must be improvement of infrastructure, as there are prisons with very bad infrastructure, such as in Saranda, Burrel, Lezha, Tepelena and in several correctional institutions in Tirana. Albanian prisons do not meet their scope, that of the reintegration of the citizens who have broken the law. This is not possible, due to the lack of infrastructure in spite of the new constructions, overcrowding, lack of psychiatrists, specialized staff, etc”, Totozani says.

Totozani says that prison personnel needs professionalism, while he criticizes the removal of a part of them, for reasons which he finds unacceptable. “What’s important is to increase professionalism, which is achieved by not changing personnel too often, as it happened when people were removed from their jobs for unlawful reasons, such as the failure to pay power supply bills or water supply bills”.

On the other hand, Totozani says that overcrowding remains the main concern, referring to the increased number of arrests made in the past two years.

The head of the Ombudsman office says that he backs the operations taking place, as the law must be respected, but he adds that “the state must not resort to custody in every occasion”.

“A person is remanded in custody when he commits highly dangerous offenses, when the person can tamper evidence, etc, as the law requires and they must not be arrested for causes such as fight against informality, forests, energy, water ,etc”, the Ombudsman suggests.

Totozani also denounced the fact that there are cases when convicts remain in custody due to the overcrowding. According to Totozani, this is a violation of the law and human rights. “We have tens of complaints through mail and telephone, which we have taken under consideration and made the necessary inspections”, he says.

Totozani says that “prison must not be driven by the concept of redemption, as this concept dates back hundreds of years ago” and adds: “Today, prison is the path that a convicted person must follow to reintegrate in society and to become part of society again, by offering his contribution”, Mr. Totozani says.

The head of the Ombudsman office suggests that the overcrowding of prisons must change. According to him, this overcrowding has to do with “the penal policy which is being followed”. He says that there must be changes in the penal policy followed by the government.

“The word prison, prison, prison, may be replaced by alternative sentences, which are more efficient in solving this problem. Also, agreements with regional education directorates and job offices to educate and employ these inmates, must be applied more. There must also be an application of agreements with  local institutions of reintegration and probation services, etc and in this aspect, more should be done”, Totozani says (photo).

He says that the institution that he chairs, has made several recommendations for the ministry of Interior, Justice, etc, where he demands the revision of penal policies. “This penal policy is not the right one.  Prison must be used as a punitive measure and not as a standard rule”. /ibna/