The successful Netflix series The Toughest Prison in the World brings testimony about the lives of prisoners from various corners of the world. Viewers could now look into the premises of Pilsen’s Bory prison, which the creators of the program call a “meth prison”, thus pointing out the problem of inmate addiction and drug distribution in the premises of the facility.
“The Czech Republic is one of the largest producers of meth in Europe. Almost every third inmate used meth before entering prison. The challenge for this prison is to keep the drugs out,” the episode opens.
Keeping drugs out of the prison is often difficult for the guards, which is acknowledged by the current director of the prison, Drahoslav Červinka. According to him, the show is designed more like a reality show and gives people a somewhat distorted view.
“I like working with the media, but I don’t like such tendentious things. I say this not only as a director, but mainly as a citizen, because the power of the media is enormous and it affects people. Let’s show people unconventional things, let’s show them prisons, but let’s be fair and tell things as they really are,” urges Červinka.
How big of a problem are drugs really among the inmates at your facility?
I dare say that up to 70 percent of our prisoners are drug addicts. Unfortunately, I have to say that in my 23 years of service in prisons, there has been an enormous increase in people addicted to drugs, the number is huge. This trend is a society-wide one, and we see in the media that children can come into contact with drugs relatively easily already at school. However, since many prisoners live in a worse social environment, they are closer to that.
What is the capacity of the prison?
The total capacity of the prison is 1182 prisoners, but at the same time it is overcrowded. 143 places are for the accused in custody and the rest for the convicted. There is an entry section, an exit section, with increased security and so on. It is divided according to profiling, in total we have about 15 such sections. One of them is a wing specialized for drug addicts, where there are about 50 prisoners.
How is this drug wing different from the rest of the prison?
This mode is much tougher than in other sections. There are also more frequent drug tests or random room searches. In addition, it works quite communally here. Prisoners must participate in group therapy, perform a variety of work activities, and may also not be allowed to communicate with people from other sections.
It’s hard, but if you want a person to change, they have to start working on themselves in some way. You can’t expect him to lie on his back and everything will go away. There are also so-called “ready-made” people. There are about four or five of them. These are the prisoners who successfully passed the process and are now setting an example for the new “up-and-comers”.
“Rehab” at your own request
You mentioned that up to 70% of prisoners in the entire prison have problems with drugs, but the capacity of the anti-drug department is relatively small. How does one get here?
In order to be accepted here, a person must meet certain conditions. For example, his history must show a trace of addictive substances, and at the same time, the prisoner must clearly show that he is willing to change his attitude towards both addictive substances and criminal behavior. All this is then assessed by an expert committee based on interviews and other tests.
It is also important to mention that the convicts are here at their own request. It is actually a ten-month rehab. In addition, the interest in it is quite high, so when someone gets here, they usually follow a strict regime. If not, he is immediately expelled from the program.
How many of them will successfully complete the program?
Your question has two levels. One level is based here on the prison and how many people successfully complete the program. That’s about 80 to 90 percent. You can see it in the overall approach not only to the therapy, but also to the execution of the sentence itself. When you come to the bedroom of ordinary prisoners, you will see a big difference compared to these people. Here you can really see that he is trying, cleaning himself and the like.
Numbers of persons prosecuted, indicted and sentenced for primary drug offences
But then there is the other level and what happens when they get out of the prison. It may happen that after some time it comes back to us and we see that there is still some dependency and that program failed. I think that it is very important here what kind of environment a person gets into, what kind of job he finds and also how strong he is as a person.
From a psychological point of view, it is known that if drug addicts are denied access to drugs, they may become aggressive as part of withdrawal symptoms. Do you encounter this often?
Unfortunately, we are registering an increase in such incidents, which did not happen so much before. Often it is connected precisely with drugs and that “abstax”. We encounter this very often, especially when entering custody, when it takes time for the prisoners to go through the whole beginning and sort it out in their heads a little.
But if I relate it to the specialized section, it doesn’t happen so much here. The people who get here already have the first beginning behind them, and if something like this happens, they know that they will be kicked out of the program immediately.
“Even if you stand next to them, you won’t notice the transmission”
Although the prison administration tries to prevent this, drugs sometimes still enter the facility. How is it possible?
Of course, if someone is a drug addict and goes to prison, then logically he will miss the drug and will try to get it in any way. For example, he can put pressure on his relatives to bring it to him.
There are actually three ways that drugs can get into prisons. The first of these is visits. The second is mainly outdoor workplaces, where prisoners work under the supervision of the employer in the facility or a company takes them over and brings them back in the afternoon. And then the prisoner can somehow procure it, the employer or anyone can give it to him, and then of course he will try to smuggle it into the prison.
And the third way, which has become quite widespread here, is that people throw it over the fence to us. Of course, we react to it, collect it and try to eliminate it as much as possible, but it is simply not possible to capture it all.
What measures do you take to eliminate the occurrence of drugs in the facility as much as possible?
We have, for example, anti-drug dogs that check correspondence or other things at the post office. If they detect any substance there, the package is sent for expertise. But the problem is the visits.
You can’t let the dogs sniff the visitors. Relatives then wear it to the prisoners in places where you simply cannot reach, such as in underwear and the like. If we have serious suspicions, we are entitled to carry out a thorough search, but the suspicion must be really serious.
Of course, we also do regular tests, the positivity rate is around five percent. If someone is found to be in possession of drugs, they face disciplinary sanctions, such as solitary confinement. And if that person is currently in the wing of drug addicts, he is immediately thrown out of it. Here, however, the positivity is much smaller.
I assume interactions between inmates and visitors are monitored by security. So how is it possible that they still manage to pass the drugs?
Of course, those interactions are monitored, but the drugs are really tiny in size. For example, if they greet each other with a hug, which is their right, even if you stand next to them, you won’t even notice the handover.
It would be best if we had more funds and could afford to buy some more sophisticated technology. Similar to what you have at the airport, so that the machine picks up the smell of the drug and we would not let the visitor in at all.
Have you ever come across the fact that the guards themselves distribute drugs in the facility or at least allow this distribution?
We never discussed it with the supervisors. We recently had one suspicion, but it was not one of the supervisors, but a civilian employee. I understand that the question was directed in that direction because the guards are in direct contact with the prisoners, and that probably leads to something like that. Of course, it cannot be completely ruled out in general, but I have the feeling that in our country those people are sufficiently well trained and, above all, they are aware of the legal consequences of such actions.
Have you ever registered any systematic distribution of drugs in the facility?
The way you say it, not at all. Of course, sometimes we can get an indication that someone here is dealing with it, as they say in the people, and we immediately take some measures, but if it were confirmed to us that we have someone here who distributes it in a targeted way, then that didn’t happen to us.