A new, more progressive approach to the return of criminalised people to society was introduced in Latvia ten years ago. Unfortunately, the system is currently idling because one has failed to achieve the expected results. The State Audit Office concludes the latter after the audit on the efficiency of the measures for the re-socialisation of convicted people.
Most people sentenced to imprisonment are sent to prison once again, and a quarter of them get imprisoned four and even more times. Although the perception of punishment has changed, with the resocialization, that is, the change of personal behaviour, being prioritised, the State Audit Office has revealed that the society is actually paying for the process, not for the intended result at present. Although various instruments are provided in prisons to motivate inmates to participate in resocialization activities, some of the inmates fail to engage in any activities as the measures are based on a voluntary principle.
Statistics show that the average number of prisoners per year decreased by 35% between 2013 and 2018, but this is mainly due to changes in criminal conviction policy. An analysis of the composition of convicted people reveals a completely different picture. It shows that in 2018, 55% of prisoners were sentenced repeatedly, including 38% serving the third, fourth, and more times in Latvia.
“A person released from prison has two options: to find his way to law-abiding life or to return to prison for another crime. Although one has made considerable efforts to work with convicted persons in prisons, there is no system in place to provide support to people after their imprisonment in the country. The resocialisation measures implemented like that lose their sense. At the same time, one requires improvements in measuring the results of resocialisation. It is not possible to evaluate the quality and efficiency of the resocialisation measures implemented at present because one lacks high-quality data on the impact of the resocialisation measures,” acknowledges Auditor General Elita Krūmiņa.
The system is working formally, with one continuing to spend dozens of millions of euros on state prisons
The audit found that everything was accomplished formally, as the resocialisation model was implemented by adopting the best foreign practice, programs were developed, and employees of the Latvian Prison Administration and the State Probation Service were trained and performed their duties in the best possible way. At the same time, Latvia has an average of four times more prisoners per 100,000 population than the Nordic countries. Majority of the people sentenced to imprisonment commit offences repeatedly. Currently, the government spends almost 41 euros per prisoner a day, and this amount has doubled since 2013 due to changes in salaries and prices for services in the country. Simultaneously, the amount of state indemnity for victims of serious crime is increasing, and one manages to recover no more than one-fifth of the costs.
There is no clarity about the implemented resocialisation measures and their impact on behavioural changes of a particular convict because no institution has conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of resocialisation measures on convicts since the introduction of the resocialisation model. The State Audit Office also could not assess their impact on the behaviour of convicts due to lack of data.
The state budget grant to the Latvian Prison Administration and the State Probation Service totalled 63.5 million euros in 2018, plus another 2 million euros for the implementation of the projects co-financed by foreign authorities.
The critical condition of prison infrastructure is a major obstacle to successful resocialisation
The implementation of the resocialisation model and the development of prison infrastructure and the employment of convicts re closely interrelated. Unfortunately, a part of good intentions has remained “on paper” due to a lack of funding. At present, prisoners cannot escape the influence of the prison “subculture”, but the construction of a new prison has still not started. Currently, up to 15 people are held in one prison cell. In such an environment, there are criminal “authority” laws that either hinder the convict’s participation in resocialisation measures or diminish the effect achieved, as the individual must always return to the overcrowded cell.
The critical condition of prison infrastructure does not arouse the interest of businesses in creating new jobs there, which is one of the crucial preconditions for successful resocialisation. At present, the number of employees in the jobs created by businesses is around 12%, which is a very low indicator.
One planned to finish the construction of the first new prison originally in 2018, but the government has decided yet that the construction of a new prison will be postponed until 2022. Meanwhile, old and outdated infrastructure requires more and more resources, as the Latvian Prison Administration has spent 2.2 million euros on current and overhauling repairs of prisons in 2018, while it will require at least another 13 million euros shortly.
A wider range of state and municipal institutions should be involved in the resocialisation work
Between 2013 and 2018, 60% of prisoners have suffered from mental disorders at an average, while around 85% of all prisoners suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. There is a lack of special resocialisation tools for prisoners both in prisons and at the State Probation Service to work with people with mental disorders and addiction problems. The State Audit Office holds that other state and local government institutions, which are competent to solve the mentioned problems, should also engage to ensure successful resocialisation in those cases.
An average of 2,500 people are resealed from prison every year, but one cannot consider that there is a unified system of resocialisation established in Latvia because a crucial step is missing, id est, the inclusion of people in the society after their release from prison. In situations where the convict has no family support, no means of subsistence, no place of residence after he or she is released from prison, the former prisoner may apply for assistance from the local authority. The information analysed in the audit shows that 67% of the 88 individuals who requested housing assistance in municipalities in 2018, were offered a place in a shelter or a night shelter. In its turn, the number of social rehabilitation centres for ex-convicts is insufficient in the country, and they are available mainly only near Riga. This situation diminishes the positive impact of resocialisation measures carried out in prisons and the State Probation Service.
In the view of the State Audit Office, one requires establishing a system of cooperation among the state authorities, local governments, and non-governmental organisations. Developing the social rehabilitation system of the convicted will enable relieving the prisons and reducing their maintenance costs in the future.