This column is perhaps the most dynamic part of the journal. We take the recorder into the street ... and ask YOUR opinion on matters of criminological interest to which EVERYONE has the right to express his personal opinion even if not an expert in the matter. Certainly, we must clarify that this effort does not constitute any kind of investigation or research but is rather an interesting (we hope!) journalistic recording of people’s views.
"Do you believe there must be changes in the conditions of imprisonment in Greece?"
by Artemisia Pappas,
Athens Law School student
Thessaloniki Law School student
The events that took place in late 2008, in Greece, in the state correctional facilities, the hunger strike of prisoners and the widespread violent protests concerning prison conditions didn’t leave us unaffected, so we found the opportunity to ask people’s opinion on this important issue.
"Do you believe there must be changes in the conditions of imprisonment in our country and if so, what should they be?”
John, 24 years old, soldier
Obviously we need to change the whole system, both for society but especially for prisoners themselves. We have to spend money on improving prison conditions, because they are people too and we should defend their rights and give them a second chance at life. Their education and involvement are key issues; however we should look in particular to their medical care and psychological support.
Anastasia, 26, scholar
Changes should be made to prison infrastructure, but mainly in our perception that imprisonment is revenge for the offender’s actions. We need to focus on juvenile prisons. Teenage offenders need education to reintegrate smoothly into society. In Spain a judge imposed a community service sentence on a teenage hacker to offer computer lessons to 100 children. Using this technique, 80% of teenagers do not re-offend, whilst in our country, 80% continue to violate the law.
Dimitris, 20, student of Architecture
Changes in prison conditions are essential. We don’t only need money to change things. Basically, common prisons for criminals should be abolished. The prison system does not work, instead it breeds criminal ‘experts’. They should also reduce the number of prisoners in each prison in order to improve conditions. Whatever the crime, one deserves to have minimum living standards, decent cells, bathrooms and access to a courtyard. The dignity of human life must be protected at all costs. We must care about education and involvement with activities and crafts.
Joanne, 61, retired teacher
I believe in rehabilitation, and therefore the appropriate conditions should be available. We should not punish them for what happened, as this cannot be forgotten, as Plato said in the Protagoras.
Agapi, 32, private employee
Yes, of course. They should be treated with more human terms. Hygiene should be better. They must be taught culture, but also to live in a civilized manner.
Vasilis, 58, chemical engineer
I believe that prison conditions should be dignified but up to a point. The state must first spend to meet the essential needs of society, and then spend money on prisoners.
Ariadne, 24, decorator
It is commonly understood that there is a problem. We must establish a modernized system of imprisonment with a focus on the man and not the punishment. The improvements should begin by meeting their basic needs and encourage personal development programs and offer social work.
Panagiotis, 23, student at the Polytechnic School of Aristotle University
The truth is that I do not know much about the issue. Because of recent news, I was informed about the problems that exist in Greek prisons. I think the emphasis should fall on the return of these people in society. The Greek state must support them so they don’t re-offend. It is necessary to make everybody aware that the goal of the sentence should be reformation. Otherwise, we will have failed as a society generally.
Anna, 25, Lawyer
I think the problem of overpopulation is the biggest issue facing the Greek prison system at this time. It is not possible for so many prisoners to live in a cell, without providing the minimum necessary living standards. Of course it affects human dignity; nobody can be imprisoned under these conditions. Nor is it possible to avoid tensions between prisoners in overcrowded situations.
Joy, 22, Psychology Student
I believe that the ongoing psychological support for prisoners is crucial to the reform and smooth reintegration of prisoners into society. The effects of incarceration on the psyche of these people are certainly serious and should be treated by specialists. Recently, I heard in a program that the number of psychologists in prisons in this country is minimal, and not sufficient to support a large proportion of prisoners.
Ilias, 32, Teacher of literature
This is an eternal question. Unfortunately, from what I heard last year in particular, the problems to be overcome are multiple. One of these is the communication between prisoners with their relatives. This should be conducted without physical obstacles, such as glass dividers. Otherwise it is inhuman to not be able to speak with members of your family.
Angela, 46, Housewife
The health issues are very serious. You cannot impose a sentence forcing someone to live under such harsh and unsanitary conditions. Surely the offender must realize the mistake he made, not through punishment but through reform. When you are denied the right to live like a human being, you cannot engage with the reform process.
George, 24, Student, Faculty of Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Overall, I feel that there must be many changes in prisons. The question is labyrinthine. Unfortunately, the problems are many. I΄ve heard that too many people live in each cell, leading to many other problems. I can not imagine myself easily co-habiting with another person... and I cannot imagine how these people live.
 Monday 3rd November through to Friday 21st November saw one of the longest hunger strikes in the world take place, involving all the Greek prisons. Among the hunger striker’s demands was: the abolishment of disciplinary sentences, lowering the minimum threshold of years for serving a sentence prior to conditional discharge, de-crowding of prisons, an end to the abuse of pre-trial detention, the abolishment of juvenile prison, lowering the current age “ceiling” of 25 for eligibility for leave, suspensions of the legal proceedings to be made only under statutory requirements, the adoption of alternative detention practices, improvements to living conditions, visiting rights and more humane conditions of transport.