The Czech Republic’s first open prison, which went into operation nearly two years ago, is reporting a record-low reoffending rate. So far, some 92 prisoners have served their time in the minimum-security facility and only three of them have returned behind bars. The reoffending rate at the country’s regular prisons reaches 70 percent.
The pilot operation of the open prison in Jiřice, in the Central Bohemian region of Nymburk, was launched in October 2017. The purpose of the facility, which resembles a small self-sustainable village, is to prepare the inmates for life outside prison and make their relapse into crime less frequent. The prison has 14 employees and can house up to 36 inmates.
Most of the detainees in Jiřice have been convicted for less serious criminal offences, such as property crime. They stay in the facility without guards, only in the presence of educators and psychologists and follow a daily routine, which is similar to normal life. The inmates alone are responsible for meeting their daily tasks.
Hana Prokopová is in charge of the Jiřice prison:
“We know that the environment can affect people’s personality. This is why our detainees stay in facilities which resemble civilian houses. But that doesn’t mean they have it easy here.
“They go to work outside the facility and once they return, they have to participate in various programmes. To sum it up, they return from work only to engage in other activities, such as gardening or animal breeding. So it is like a simulator of real life.”
Due to its location in central Bohemia, most of the prisoners have a full-time job in the automobile industry in the nearby town of Mladá Boleslav.
Apart from facilitating the inmates’ reintegration into normal society, the operation of the open prison is also less costly, explains Mrs Prokopová:
“We don’t have any hard data available at the moment, but just the fact that we don’t have any uniformed and armed guards makes the operation of our prison less expensive.
“Our detainees go to work, and they pay off the costs of their stay in prison. Because we work with them, we expect them to return to work and pay taxes. But, as I said, we don’t have any concrete data as yet.”
Over the two years of its existence, 13 prisoners had to be transferred from the open prison in Jiřice to a regular jail due to disciplinary reasons, mostly to do with alcohol consumption. The pilot project is being closely monitored by the country’s Institute for Criminology and Social Prevention, which is to release its assessment in about a year’s time.
If the open prison concept proves effective, the facility will be enlarged to house up to 100 inmates and more such prisons may be built elsewhere in the country.
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