An uprising took place early this morning in the woman’s prison of Eleonas, Thebes in Greece, after the death of a imprisoned woman for an unknown reason.
In two wings, some matresses burned, while according to sources of the General Secretariat of Anti-crime policy police intervention was not necessary and now things are calm. The detainee was initially taken to the hospital where she died and her cause of death has not yet been determined and an autopsy is expected.
The young woman’s inmates are talking about symptoms of corona disease and are asking for immediate protection and decongestion measures.
While it was mathematically certain that the virus would not leave untouched structures with such a large overpopulation like prisons, the Ministry of Citizen Protection has not yet taken the necessary measures other than the absolute restriction of prisoners in prisons.
Despite the concerns of opposition lawmakers, lawyers and penitentiaries for more than a month now, and despite the Council of Europe’s strict directives to take action during the pandemic, all announcements are still on paper and no one seems in a hurry to protect the people in prison with decongestion and hygiene measures.
On this sad occasion we share with you the text about prisons and corona crisis from COVID-19: Thessaloniki Solidarity:
“Inside the prison we feel like we have been sentenced to death.”
This cry is coming from the invisible women and men inside the Greek prisons of and not only them, as revolts are breaking out all over the world for the right to life and dignity, from Italy to Colombia and from Iran to Brazil. The situation in Greek prisons was miserable even before the pandemic: overcrowding, zero medical care, hygiene conditions constituting a health disaster waiting to happen. Prisoners feel as if they are being sent to death row amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, since if the virus contaminates the prisons, it will endanger the lives of thousands of inmates who belong to high-risk groups. In a report dated March 23rd, the World Health Organization also draws the attention of governments especially on detention centers, both with respect to health conditions and also protecting individual freedoms, without discriminating against detainees.
In this case as well, however, just like with the “outside” world, the reaction of the Greek State moved in the same direction: prohibitions and repression instead of actual relief actions, as these would mean expenses for people and groups that have been judged as financially unsustainable for neoliberalism. Open visits by relatives and lawyers have been banned, while detainees cannot receive various items from outside, such as clothes, food and books. Just as the universal ban on out-of-prison traffic does the bare minimum to save the health system from collapsing, similarly the prohibitions within the prisons will not be effective in protecting the health of prisoners, but only in strengthening discipline and incarceration.
Thousands of sick, elderly persons and pregnant women continue to be incarcerated in prisons. So far, minimal disinfection has taken place, following pressure from detainees, e.g. in the women’s prisons of Korydallos. There is no access to sanitizers or masks. In the few cases that employees wear masks and gloves, these are being supplied by themselves and they are not granted a leave if they have flu symptoms. There is no information on anything, neither on the measures taken, nor on the nature of the virus. In some prisons, such as Malandrino and Grevena, there is a constant problem regarding provision of tap water. On the occasion of water being supplied to these prisons it is transferred by tanker trucks (!), and its quality is substandard. Last week, in the prisons of Chania, there was no water for three days. Some detainees may not even be able to wash their hands. At the same time, without conducting any health checks, the Greek State plans to set up a small wing of the Korydallos women’s prison so that patients from Domokos prison and further south can be transferred. This situation makes detainees talk about “Spinalonga” -refering to a Greek leper colony that operated on a remote island until the mid-20th century- as they know that with the situation prevailing in hospitals at the moment, there is nothing for them to expect as far as medical care is concerned.
For these obvious reasons, which are, undoubtedly, the most just in the world, prisoners of different prisons proceeded to mobilizations, and the state has responded with repression and the expansion of the state of exception. As of March 27th, inmates at Chania’s prison have refused the midday bed rest and count. The penitentiary service responded with courtyard prohibition, a measure that makes the situation even more volatile due to the constant and intense overcrowding caused. At St. Stephen’s prison of Patras, inmates of the Wing 3 abstained from their food rations on the very same day, while initially they refused the midday rest and count. In response, special police burst into the prison, and under the pretext of performing a search, they destroyed prisoners’ cells. The inmates of the detention center of Larissa started escalating protests, as of Monday, March 30th, maintaining the prison open during the noon count until the ministry officially responds.
The absence of and prison decongestion and prisoner protection measures is a state crime! We stand by the struggles of the “invisible” prisoners and make their demands visible.
– Μass prisoner releases (heinous crimes excluded), with priority given to immunocompromised, vulnerable groups.
– Cessation of pretrial detention until the end of the pandemic (depending on the charges).
– Provision of special areas for inmates with flu symptoms, as well as HIV-positive people.
– Paid leave for prison employees showing virus symptoms (even mild ones), as is the case for the rest of the population.
– Disinfection of all prisons and free distribution of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, antiseptic).
– Priority to prisoners and prison staff for the COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
COVID-19: Thessaloniki Solidarity