Experts: Amnesty is used too often and is not a permanent solution
Amnesty solves the problem of overcrowding only in the short term. In the long term, the problem should be solved systematically, with more frequent application of alternative sanctions and measures and with more frequent application of conditional discharge, says Professor Alexandra Gruevska Drakulevski.
The amnesty institute is used too often and hence the impression of a possible abuse of the amnesty for political purposes, is the conclusion of the criminals consulted by "Sloboden Pechat" regarding the disagreements between the government partners SDSM and the Alliance for Albanians on the draft law on amnesty. This misunderstanding raised the question of whether it is better to unload the overcrowded prisons in the country through an amnesty for prisoners for light crimes or through probation, that is, through alternative sanctions and measures, as well as parole.
As we have already reported, SDSM prefers the unloading of prisons through probation, while the Minister of Justice Krenar Loga proposes an amnesty.
The new law on amnesty did not pass the government session and has been sent back for coordination with the competent institutions. Apart from the timing of the adoption of the law, i.e. after the adoption of the amendments to the Criminal Code that provoked stormy reactions, there is also resistance among the SDSM regarding who will be released from prison with the amnesty law.
Professor Alexandra Gruevska Drakulevski from the Institute of Criminal Law, Department of Criminology and Penology at the "Justiniana Prima" Faculty of Law believes that the amnesty institute has started to be used very often, hence the public impression of possible abuses from its application for political purposes. She reminds that in 2018 the Law on Amnesty was passed due to serious overcrowding in prisons. During that period, the prison system faced the problem of having an average of 1,5 prisoners per bed.
- Then 815 prisoners were released, and the situation with accommodation in the prisons relaxed, but only in the short term. Within a few years, the prisons were once again overcrowded. A large number of the amnestied have committed new crimes and are again serving prison sentences for the new crimes. Even now, the prison system is under pressure from overcrowding - says Gruevska Drakulevski.
Referring to the data from the Administration for Execution of Sanctions, published on their website, the professor says that there are 2.237 people in prisons, and the total capacity of beds is 2.113. With the new amnesty law, she expects to reduce the pressure on prisons with limited capacities.
- But I must emphasize that amnesty is not a long-term solution to the problems faced by the prison system, which have been noted for years in the reports of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the National Preventive Mechanism and other institutions. Amnesty solves the problem of overcrowding only in the short term. In the long term, the problem should be solved systematically, in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe, with more frequent application of alternative sanctions and measures and with more frequent application of parole - says the professor.
She adds that the Council of Europe points out in its recommendations, and research confirms, that alternative sanctions and measures and parole are effective means of preventing returns and promoting successful resocialization and reintegration of convicted persons, but also an effective means of solving the problem of overcrowding and avoiding the so-called "criminal infection" of convicted persons.
- Hence, it is necessary to strengthen the probation service, which is responsible for the execution of alternative measures of conditional sentence with protective supervision, community service and house arrest, as well as for the execution of parole and supervision of parolees - Gruevska Drakulevski believes.
There is resistance against a new amnesty even after it was hinted that it is possible for the legal solution to include those convicted from April 27, as well as election irregularities, if there is an agreement between SDSM and DUI with VMRO-DPMNE on the constitutional amendments, which from Alliance for Albanians categorically rejected it, but also said that if amnesty for "Bloody Thursday" is pushed, then amnesty for terrorists from "Divo Naselje" and "Monstrum" will also be put on the table.
Director of the Sanctions Enforcement Administration Jovica Stojanovic did not want to comment on the new amnesty law proposed by the Ministry of Justice before it is adopted. He says since the passage of the probation law in 2015 and the opening of the first probation office in 2017, there has been progress in using alternative sentences to prison.
- Currently, 28 probation officers work, nine offices are active and there are more than 450 active probation cases. Imagine if they were still in prison. And in the project "Support from the EU for the rule of law" there is a component for alternative punishments, which means that Europe also supports the development of that system. What effect will this amnesty have, if it is passed, let's wait and then we will see what it will mean in numbers - Stojanovic told us.