In Czech prisons, women make up 8.6 percent of the total number of prisoners, which is the fourth highest ratio in the EU.
Women who went through prison themselves took part in the script of the video. The recording was made directly in the prisons in Ruzyna and Světlá nad Sázavou, and is thus an interesting insight into the prison environment for the general public as well.
The instruction is accompanied by young Magda. The camera follows her from the moment she rings the doorbell at the entry prison, through the security frame and the entrance search, to the cell and the interview with the teacher. For example, the viewer learns what a “ball” means in prison jargon – a rolled-up blanket with underwear and towels that the inmate puffs on in the reception room.
Magda reveals that the most important thing is to take personal hygiene with you, including pads and cash to top up your phone card, but also cigarettes, tobacco and coffee. To pass the time, he recommends a flashlight radio, stationery or magazines. He also adds other practical observations – don’t forget a possible study sheet or a doctor’s prescription if a woman needs to have medication with her.
Viewers of the video will also find out that in the entry prison, women are entitled to shower only twice a week and that they can call four to five numbers of their loved ones, which must be approved by the prison.
“Don’t confide too much in anything, think mainly of yourself – you came here to serve a sentence, not to find a best friend,” advises Magda regarding communication with fellow inmates. The women are also taught that when a staff member of the Prison Service comes to the cell, they must stand up, otherwise they face disciplinary action.
Magda admits that the entry prison is a shock for most women, but at the same time reassures her that the situation will improve after being transferred to the so-called tribal prison.
Prisons are ruled by the male factor
The video was created as part of a project to fulfill the so-called Bangkok Rules, which is a set of 70 UN rules on the treatment of imprisoned women. The policy calls for reducing unnecessary incarceration and addresses the specific needs of women behind bars. Prisons and prison regimes have historically been created for the majority male prison population – from building architecture to security procedures to health care, contact with family, work and education.
“We still have room for improvement,” Monika Myšičková, director of the women’s prison in Světlá nad Sázavou, pointed out at Thursday’s conference. “The topic of children always hits me the most – almost every woman in prison takes care of one. Children are secondary victims of crime,” she said.
Myšičková further drew attention to the fact that, unlike men, women have different requirements for hygiene and experience things differently. “We need to talk, to solve,” she summed up for the women.
The UN’s Bangkok Rules, for example, stipulate that women should serve their sentences close to home, taking into account their caring responsibilities. They emphasize the need for regular water supply, especially for pregnant, lactating or menstruating women. They prohibit the use of confinement in a confined space for pregnant women. Disciplinary sanctions for women must not include banning contact with the family, especially children.
The number of imprisoned women in the Czech Republic has more than doubled over the past 20 years. Lenka Ouředníčková from the Rubikon Center commented: “A significant step forward is the upcoming amendment to the Criminal Code, which aims to reduce the overuse of criminal repression for less serious crimes.”
The organization said that women commit mainly petty crime, which is directly related to poverty, addiction and the inability to carry out the originally imposed alternative sentence. Only a small proportion are convicted of violent crime, and the vast majority have themselves been victims of violence.
The Rubikon Center also draws attention to the fact that convicted women often have nowhere to return to after serving their sentence and end up in hostels. They struggle with a lack of money and can easily fall back into old ways, repeating the same mistakes or succumbing to addictions.