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January 26, 2014
January 26, 2014

Greece: the condition in prisons

Author: A.M. Translator: Lena Theodoropoulou
Source: Epohi  Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: deelesfrit
Greece: the condition in prisons

Last Monday, the Parliament Committee –which, according to the penitentiary code, has the right to visit the prisons of the country and to have access to all its spaces– visited the hospital and the Psychiatric clinic of Korydalos prison. The Committee, consisted of representatives of all parties, recorded the medieval conditions that nowadays characterise both institutions.

In the prison hospital –that is not yet part of the Public Health System– 209 prisoners are stacked, although there is only room for 60 patients. More than half of the people in this “hospital” –128 persons– are HIV positive, living one on top of the other. The hospital chambers have become actual prison cells, as the beds have been replaced by bunk-beds placed next to each other. The 128 HIV-positive prisoners face serious health issues while, for once more, delays in the administration of their medication was reported. Additionally, due to the over-population, the HIV-positive prisoners get very easily infected by various diseases by the other patients of the hospital. It is worth mentioning that two HIV-positive persons got tuberculosis on top. There are only two doctors permanently working there, one pathologist and one surgeon, no psychologists and only few on-call doctors are present for a couple of hours per week.

The conditions are equally dramatic in the prison’s psychiatric clinic, as there are several patients with heavy psychiatric disorders hospitalised there, as well as drug-addicted prisoners, again living in unacceptable conditions. This has to be the only psychiatric clinic in the world that does not have a permanent psychiatrist but only visiting ones. The number of staff is just the minimum allowed, with only three nurses and few prison officers that work as nurses. The 259 patients have only two hours per day of out-door time and for the rest of the time they are forced to live in a space that was designed for 160 people.

Blue cells and yet they do exist

However, the most shocking sight faced by the committee was the isolation cells, also known as “blue cells”. In one of them, there was a patient without cloths and, as the committee was informed, some prisoners might be held there for up to 5 days. When the Special Committee for the Control of the Protection of the Rights of People with Mental Disorders visited that space in March of 2012 they had reported: “In the basement there are three ‘blue cells’. These are isolation chambers, with their doors and walls covered with a soft material, their floor made of concrete, without beds or mattresses inside. In two of these cells there were two full naked men, not in stimulation at the time of the visit. In the view of the guests they were hiding their genitals with their hands (obviously out of shame). There was urine outside these cells”.

“There is so much we could say about the holding conditions of the prisoners”, stated the Syriza MP Vasiliki Katrivanou, “but I will only talk on the basis of this specific experience that goes beyond imagination. The conditions were shocking and I was thinking that in the current context of the crisis, the moral panic and terror regarding the prisons and what safety means, we should actually talk about what safety really means for the people in the hospital and the psychiatric clinic, the prison staff, the doctors and the nurses. When there are HIV-positive prisoners stacked in there, and when people that suffer from tuberculosis are left without care and treatment, how can we talk about safety? When there is money spent for maximum security prisons while the authorities reject the doctors’ suggestion for blood tests to all the prisoners with a cost of only €2.50. How can we talk about the safety of prisoners, prison staff, and public health? We, under the current conditions, reply that safety means opposing to the terror and having the political will to fundamentally change prisons”.

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