Issue 1 - September 2010

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Improving prison conditions in Greece
... by Nestor E. Courakis
Professor of Criminology & Penology
Faculty of Law, University of Athens (GR)

This editorial is dedicated to prisons and the Greek penal system since we believe it is the duty of any society to give priority to correctional topics and have as its main objective to improve prison conditions.

How might this improvement be achieved, however? The Greek Correctional Code poses in Article 4 a basic prerequisite, which should, in my opinion, also be considered as the basis for the appropriate treatment of prisoners:
"The prisoner during the period of carrying out his sentence (imprisonement), loses the right to personal freedom but no other individual right is withheld from him. The prisoner, due to their detention, are not prevented from personality development and exercising the rights conferred on them by law, in person or by representation.”

Besides this, the Greek Correctional Code provides a series of other, more significant measures, aimed at a comprehensive "opening up" of the prison towards society, in conjunction with a creative use of time in prison for the benefit of the inmate and an improvement in prison living conditions. I will briefly mention some of these measures, which theoretically should have been put into effect for almost a decade by now, with the voting of the Greek Correctional Code: Day release  (art. 59. Greek Correctional Code ), inmates must have eligibility for employment inside or outside correctional facilities (art. 40 in Greek Correctional Code ), granting of educational leave (art. 58 in Greek Correctional Code ), segregation of inmates based on the gravity of the offence (art. 11 in Greek Correctional Code ), education and vocational training in prison (art. 35 in Greek Correctional Code), oversight of the detention conditions by the Jurist who is responsible for the proper enforcement of sentences (art. 83 in Greek Correctional Code ) and - last but not least – essential support for released prisoners throughout Greece (art. 81 in Greek Correctional Code).
However, these important measures are not implemented and as a result the Greek reality is completely different from what the law provides. The specialists and the researchers in everyday occurrence are faced with prisons which look like "human warehouses”: Inmates are packed in chambers or cells or are corralled into the yard under the pressure of an unbearable overcrowding which, however, has begun to decline somewhat recently (in 1/3/2009, there were 11,049 prisoners for 9,103 available places). Furthermore, the proportion of prisoners in relation to the number of prison officers deviates significantly from the requirements of an adequate penal system (4510 employed, in all capacities, at detention facilities nationwide. This equates to a ratio of approximately 1 prison staff members to every 2.5 prisoners, at a time when the proportion in other European countries, e.g. Sweden, is almost the opposite: 1.33 prison staff members for each prisoner in 2007-see. N.E. Courakis and N.K. Koulouris, Penal Control, 20095, 326, page. 419).
However, the problems which face the Greek penal system are not only due to a lack of space and staff. There are other, perhaps more important factors, that contribute to the current impasse facing Greek prisons. Here we will mention two indicative factors, without overlooking the numerous other problems that exist with regards to hygiene and satisfactory standards of living of the prisoners:
Firstly, the Greek courts impose long sentences and hence extremely severe sentences compared with those of other countries. While in Germany, for example, 75% of the imposed and non-suspended imprisonment in 2003 was under 2 years, in Greece, conversely, 72% of offenders are serving a sentence of imprisonment longer than 5 years (see T. Tzannetaki in Greek Journal of Poinika Chronica (Penal Chronicles)  Ǵ 2008, 690 – in Greek).
Secondly, whilst prison incarcerations should be mainly imposed on offenders guilty of crimes with a acutely antisocial nature, so effectively ensuring the protection of society at large, in practice those "inside" normally belong to one or more of the three following categories: (a) people who have not yet been on trial (indictees) and who are therefore protected by the presumption of innocence, with all that entails for non-temporary detention without serious cause, (b) foreigners often serving sentences for the "crime" (!) of illegal entry, residence, or departure from the country, and (c) drug addicts and/or minor drug dealers, of whom is rightly observed (N. Paraskevopoulos in the newspaper “Eleftherotypia” of 8.11.2008, p. 35 , "Focus" for prisons), "on one hand they are culprits, on the other, victims", and therefore, I would add, people who need special treatment more than incarceration ...

What can be done? To some extent the solutions are dictated by the diagnosis of the problem and its causes. In a word, however, we might say: the application of the Greek Correctional Code to the letter, whilst also amending our legislation (even more) and enabling an infrastructure for prisons – for as long as they have reason to exist - to play their essential role of confining and rehabilitating only those criminals who objectively pose a material risk to society.

And on a more general level: With this issue we celebrate the English-language edition of the Greek electronic journal “The Art of Crime”. It would be trite to discuss here emotions such as elation and hope that of course are called for at a time like this. The overwhelming emotion, at least to me, is gratitude to the main protagonists of this first criminological electronic magazine in our country, i.e. to Fotios Spyropoulos and Dionysis Chionis (in equal measure), who were able to create from scratch such an excellent "podium" of investigation and communication for criminologists, a podium of ideas and – we hope - confrontation, only through which Science of Criminology may progress.
Prof. Nestor Courakis
Director of Center for Penal and Criminological Research


Emeritus Professor Calliope Spinellis
"Today, there are several well-qualified criminologists in Greece".

Victim offender mediation in family violence cases
The greek experience

by Vasso Artinopoulou,
Ass. Professor of Criminology,  Panteion University (GR) 
The article describes the implementation of victim offender mediation as provided by law in cases of domestic violence in Greece


Scientific colloquium on:
“Criminological Aspects of Migration in Greece”

"EPANODOS" (“Return” back to the society)
Rehabilitation Center for ex-prisoners
Presentation, challenges and objectives

Congress of the Greek Society of Criminology:
"Criminology and current challenges"

Combating discrimination and social exclusion:
the “EPAFI” (“CONTACT”) program, where young Law students meet young inmates...

Innocent prisoners and deceived offenders
"punishing somebody who is innocent is a crime"
Have you ever considered what it would be like to be wrongly arrested by the authorities, detained on remand, and after a few months it was proved that you had been wrongly accused and had nothing to do with the case? The issue of wrongful remand of prisoners came to light again in Greece with the case of a young man from the greek island of Mytilene who was arrested and prosecuted for rape and attempted serial rape of 5 women...

Constantine Gardikas
Constantine Gardikas, the son of George Gardikas, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Athens, was born in the city of Patras in 1896. Constantine Gardikas developed into a prolific scientist with a solid classical education.

He studied law in Athens, and he continued his studies in Zurich and Geneva specializing in criminal law and criminology.  He received his doctorate degree at the age of 22 and then started lecturing at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. ...

Advice on the use of credit cards

"Plastic money" has replaced cash as the dominant method of payment in our everyday transactions.
We are familiar, therefore, with the use of credit cards, but how well do we know to protect ourselves from credit card fraud?
Problems of reoffending of young detainees
Conclusions of the follow-up research of the Center for Penal and Criminological Research (University of Athens)
 by Nestor E. Courakis
       Professor of Criminology
       University of Athens (GR)
This research was characterized as a follow-up because its main purpose was to discover first, what happened to Greek juvenile detainees with whom we had run interviews in the previous stage of the research (1993) ...

“Asking people…”
Interesting questions and even more interesting responses

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. We take the recorder into the street ... and ask YOUR opinion:

"Do you believe there must be changes in the conditions of imprisonment in our country and if so, what should they be?”


The profile of a famous greek criminal through the eye of a camera, the lyrics of a song and his autobiography

A book, a song, and a movie with the same protagonist…
Nikos Koemtzis, a famous Greek criminal who killed three people and stabbed seven more, all because he wanted to dance to a song he had "ordered" from the musicians in a music hall. He transferred the story of his life to a book. Dionysis Savvopoulos (a famous Greek singer-songwriter) read the book and turned it into a song. Pavlos Tassios (a well known Greek director) heard the song and made a film. And now we present a criminologist’s scientific analysis of this artistic triptych.
A case study of a recidivist criminal
This is the interesting story of a recidivist criminal (Elias) who is incarcerated in a Greek prison. We managed to interview him, unattended, in late May 1999 in a special area in the guardhouse yard. The main topic of our conversation was his life story, the life of a young man through the prison bars… 


Constanteion - Centre of Criminology & Psychology Researches

Federation of Prison Officers

Professor Nestor Courakis

Ministry of Citizen Protection

I feel safe

Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights

Hellenic Supreme Court of Civil and Penal Law


Professor Giannis Panousis

Centre for Psychoanalytic Research

Sector of Criminal Sciences - Faculty of Law - National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

Association of greek criminologists - Panteion University

Centre of Social Research - Technological Education Institute of Messolonghi

Sector of Criminology - Panteion University

Sector of Penal and Criminological Sciences - Faculty of Law - Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

European Court of Human Rights - Search Portal

Hellenic League for Human Rights

Marangkopoulos Foundation for Human Rights

Faculty of Law - National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

Centre for Penal and Criminological Research

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