History of Latvian Prisons
Prison System in Latvian Republic (1918 – 1940)
After proclamation of Latvian Republic on 18th November of 1918 the Temporary Government formed the Prison Inspection, which took over Rīga Central Prison and colonies for men and women in Rīga. Nevertheless this newly formed Prison Inspection did not exist for long. Because of invasion of Bolsheviks on 2nd January of 1919 the Temporary Government left Rīga, and newly formed institutions ended their work. As the Bolsheviks’ terror and war tribunal became stronger, prisons were overcrowded with anticommunists. On 8th July of 1919 the Central Prison Directorate was established as the subordinate to the Ministry of Justice institution. On 10th August of 1919 it was renamed into the Central Prison and Prison Organisation Administration, in 1930 it was renamed into the Department of Prisons.
Prison system of the young Latvian Republic developed through the hard times. The State economy was destroyed by the war, all men, that were able to carry arms, were mobilized. The population still well remembered all that happened behind prison gates, that is why was hard to find appropriate prison staff.
In 1920 there were 16 prisons and 3 correctional institutions in Latvia, where 1861 prisoners were placed. At the moment of establishment of the Department of Prisons the number of inmates in Latvian prisons was from 2700 to 3700. In 1929 at 69 Terbatas str. juvenile prison was opened. On 7th August of 1932 Mr. H.Apsītis Minister of Justice signed the order about preventive detention of recidivists in accordance with the court order. The rooms for male preventive detainees were allotted in Central Prison and for female detainees in Term Prison.
In 1936 there were 15 prisons in Latvia: Central Prison, Term Prison, Prison for Juveniles, Jelgavas, Daugavpils, Liepājas, Valmieras, Cēsu, Tukuma, Ventspils, Rēzeknes, Ludzas, Alūksnes, Jēkabpils and Madonas Prisons.
There was special shop in Rīga at 6 Antonijas str. where good quality products, made in Latvian prisons, could be bought. Agricultural products produced in Latvian prisons have even won some prizes. The Kalnciema quarry also helped to eliminate unemployment problem in prisons.
On 15th July of 1938 the Department of Prisons became Department of Criminal Policy. In its work the Department used the achievements of world and European penitentiary systems. In 1940 as well in Latvian Penal institutions the level of leading European countries was reached. In 1940 the USSR, braking the international agreements, occupied Latvia and that fact ended the good worked out practise.
Penal institutions in Soviet times (1940 – 1991)
After Latvia because a part of in USSR the Prison Administration was under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Socialistic Republic of Latvia (SSRL). During the Soviet times the name of prison administration was changed several times – Administration of Correctional Work Institutions, Prison Administration, Department of Prisons.
To describe the functions of the penal institutions during that period the opinions and presumptions of the penitentiary science theorists and practitioners have to be looked over. One of them is that an offender has to be punished strictly but fairly. Severity of the punishment was determined by the kind of correctional work institution: general, middle strict, strict and special regime colonies, as well as prison for those convicts who roughly violated the order. The main differences between the levels of strictness were the restrictions of regime. The widely spread thesis, that under the socialism conditions every convict can be corrected and return to normal life as a full-fledged member of the society, remained only a thesis – the number of recidivists didn’t decline, almost every third of released persons committed new crimes and returned to prisons. Apparently the human and progressive at the time opinion about efficiency of correction under collectivism conditions did not justify itself.
Nevertheless, employment of the convicts in the industrial production, secondary education and vocational training gained positive results in the minimisation of the punishment serving. Approximately 85% of convicts were employed in industry; the total amount of production reached the value of 300 million roubles. That was very impressive index. Every convicted person under 40 years old had to get secondary education, and in vocational school convicts could choose from more that 25 specialities. Occupation of the convicts created favourable preconditions for strict internal order, at the same time earned money and received profession supported easy adoption after release.
But in time many external seemingly attractive factors lost their glitter. Great proportion of deprivation of freedom (more that 60% of all the criminal punishment kinds), enormous concentration of convicts in Correctional Work Institutions (in 80’s more than 16000) turned those institutions into hardly manageable conglomerates. At the end of soviet times penitentiary science specialists acknowledged that a prison is more civilised penal institution.
Latvian Prison System Since 1991
The name of the prison administration was changed several times also after regaining independence – Prison Administration, Prison Department and other.
On 15th December of 1995 the amendments to the Latvian Penal Code about implementation of progressive punishment were accepted. That punishment is based on differentiation of convicts in frames of regimes and prison kinds, as well as on transfer of convicts from one kind of prison to another taking into consideration time served, behaviour, committed crime, previous convictions, attitude to other convicts and prison staff. Since implementation of the progressive punishment system the closed, semi-closed and open prisons as well as a correctional institution for juveniles were established.
From 31st December of 1999 Prison Administration is under the Ministry of Justice. Latvian The Latvia’s prison system comprises 14 prisons: Central Prison, Brasas Prison, Daugavpils, Grīvas, Iļģuciema, Jelgavas, Jēkabpils, Liepājas, Matīsa, Olaines, Pārlielupes, Šķirotavas, Valmieras and Vecumnieku Prisons, Cēsu Correctional Institution for Juveniles and Prison Staff Training Centre.