Updated on 29 October 2020
At present, there are several inmates and prison staff who are in quarantine in compliance with the provisions of the Public Health Authority Measure when endangering the public health, issued by the Chief Health Officer of the Slovak Republic, due to their return from abroad or their admission to prison. The measure is the domestic quarantine for the prison staff and the isolation of the inmates concerned in prison facilities for 14 days.
Using of pre-trial detainees´ own clothes were temporary stopped because the Corps cannot verify its sanitary harmlessness.
Prisoners’ requests for transfer to other prison facility were postponed in order to eliminate the possibilities of spreading the virus among prisons. – Escorts (transfers) of inmates are carried our only when necessary.
From 10 March 2020, the body temperature is measured to any person (including prison staff) entering any of the prison facilities. It is measured with contactless thermometer. The persons shall wear a face mask. The person who refused to be measured or his/her body temperature is more than 37.5 °C or has any symptoms of COVID-19 is not allowed to enter the prison facility. Prison staff shall also provide entering persons with the face masks, if they did not bring their own.
Inmates The Prison Hospital in Trenčín (hereinafter “hospital”) provides health care for accused and convicted persons from all over Slovakia. The hospital has taken preventive protective measures in relation to the serious epidemiological situation. Health care staff is provided with face masks and gloves as well as overalls and eye protectors. The hospital is committed to increased disinfection of the premises (chemical cleaning and the use of germicidal lamps) and increases the supply of medicines. The list of patients in the hospital is updated daily. When the first case within the prison population will be confirmed, the hospital shall re-profil the pneumology and phthisiology beds to infectological beds. In the case of insufficient number of beds in these departments, other departments of the hospital will also be used. Stocks of preventive protective equipment, disinfectants and medicines will be increased for the period of three months. In the other departments of the
hospital only emergency medical care will be provided and the number of health care staff will be minimized for their safety. The hospital will serve as a central workplace where inmates infected with COVID-19 will be transferred from all over Slovakia. As part of the epidemiological situation, the hospital cooperates closely with the Regional Health Care Office in Trenčín (e.g. sampling, patient and staff management, etc.).
On admission of such person to prison, it is necessary to ensure:
– Entry medical screening shall be performed as soon as possible;
– In case there is no physician in prison in that time, authorised prison officer shall ensure the execution of personal search and measurement of body temperature;
– In case that the person has some symptoms of the disease (rhinitis, cough, sore throat, increased body temperature over 37 °C), the prison staff shall telephonically contact call centre of the respective Regional Health Care Office (phone numbers stated in the internal regulation) and proceed according the instructions of the operator in cooperation with the prison hospital;
– Each admitting person is placed in prison separately from the others for 14 days; during this period his body temperature is measured and such person is closely observed (preventive quarantine).
From 6 March all prison visits of inmates were suspended until further notice. This prohibition of visits is still in force (as of 10 June).
In order to eliminate the negative impact of cancelling visits, the Corps has already adopted various compensation measures – provision of one-time phoning free credit in the amount of 2 € (approximately 20 minutes of calling) to all inmates; the requirement of inmates to pay claims in order to purchase a credit for making phone calls was cancelled (note: generally, inmates can purchase credit for making phone calls only up to the amount of their paid claims); inmates were allowed to make phone calls more often.
From 15 May, with the support the Minister of Justice of the SR, a project of video-visits for inmates with other persons was launched (close persons, other inmates) using tablets via Skype application. It is necessary to say that inmates have no legal right to them. Currently, inmates have the video-visits for free. Conditions: inmates can ask for a video-visit at least once per month for 20 minutes; juveniles and prisoners in open units once per week for 20 minutes; a maximum of 5 persons can be present during video-visit (this does not apply to persons younger than 15 years); prison officers perform surveillance.
The suspension of visits does not apply to service official activities performed by criminal proceedings authorities (e.g. prosecutions, courts, police force and the like), defenders or advocates. The Corps contacted the agencies concerned (Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Slovak Bar Association) and recommended them to limit or postpone the entry of representatives of the law enforcement agencies apart from cases when it is necessary for legal or other reasoned reasons. In case they are not allowed to enter the prison, a written confirmation on prison entry refusal is issued that states the reason why the contact with an inmate was not allowed.
As of 10 June, the prohibition of standard inmates visits is still in force but their restoration is planned from 1 July; Conditions: one inmate can receive a visit of a maximum of 3 persons (including children); visit can last up to 1 hour; for now it would be only contactless visits – plexi-glass separation; invitation to visit of inmate will include also instructions on new rules for visit with connection to COVID-19;
Visitors – their body temperature will be measured before entry (person over 37 °C will not be allowed to enter); they must wear face masks and perform hand disinfection; they must keep social distance and avoid any physical contact with inmate; After each visit – visiting premises will be disinfected using disinfectants and also with the use germicidal emitters (radiation at least 20 minutes);
Video-visit will be an alternative to “restricted standard visit”, i.e. the video-visit can be realised by any inmate who decides, on the basis of any reason, not to make use of the possibility of the standard visit under these restricted conditions; in justified cases, the Prison Governor may allow video-visit in addition to the standard visit.
Following the conclusions from the meeting of the Central Crisis Staff of the Slovak Republic related to the spread of COVID-19, the prison visits were prohibited from 6 March to 30 June 2020. This general prohibition of the physical prison visits was lifted from 1 July with the approval of the Chief Health Officer of the Slovak Republic. The prison visits can be carried out only without any direct contact and under specified sanitary and organizational-technical measures, such as :
At present, the prohibition of physical prison visits is possible only upon the decision of the Regional Health Officer due an adverse epidemiological situation in particular region or due positive COVID-19 cases within the prison population in particular prison (such visits are currently forbidden in one prison). As an alternative to physical visits, we introduced video-visits from 15 May 2020.
As of today, the Headquarters of the prison service has no records on a written submission, resp. a petition from any Human Rights Organization against the activities of individual prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have records on several submissions from inmates and their relatives, in which these persons challenge or question the anti-epidemic measures taken by the prison service against COVID-19. According to our legislation, these submissions/petitions are forwarded for handling to individual prisons, against which they are directed.
Moreover, the Headquarters of the prison service is also aware that inmates and in some cases their relatives, send their submissions to the Public Defender of Rights. Then the Public Defender of Rights investigates these objections in the particular prison and the prison provides him/her the cooperation while doing so. It follows from the notifications sent on the results of the handling of these submissions by the Public Defender of Rights that in none of the cases was the violation of the rights of inmates or their relatives in the application of anti-epidemic measures against COVID-19 taken by the prison service.
In connection with the current situation, the contact of inmates with civilians who are not close persons/relatives of inmates or their legal representatives is prevented within the anti-epidemic measures adopted in prisons. Thus, the prison service makes every effort to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in prisons also by currently preventing the TV crews or individuals from media from entering its premises.
In order to inform inmates, prison staff and others about COVID-19 situation (symptoms, how to decrease the risk of infection, washing hands procedure, etc.), the prison service uses information leaflets of the Public Health Authority that are available on its webpage (e.g. annex no.1). In addition, an internal regulation was elaborated that regulates the procedure for anti-epidemic measures in the prison service taken in connection with the second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Moreover, in connection with restrictions on regular prison visits, an information leaflet was elaborated containing the information about video-visits (annex. no. 2).
In compliance with the Constitutional Act no. 227/2002 Coll. on Security in the State in Times of War, Hostilities, State of Emergency and Emergency as amended, Government of the Slovak Republic can declare also the state of emergency and emergency. The Government has already repeatedly made us of this lawful authorisation due to the epidemiologic situation. At the moment, in Slovakia the state of emergency has been declared from 1 October 2020.
The state of emergency can be declared only on condition that life and health of persons has been or will be endangered, also regarding the pandemics outbreak. During this state, the state can in compliance with the above mentioned constitutional act, limit the fundamental rights and freedoms to the extent and time necessary. The maximum duration of the state of emergency is 90 days. At the moment, this state in Slovakia has been declared for 45 days.
Particular legislation: The generally binding legal regulations governing the health care, mainly the Act no. 355/2007 Coll. on Protection, Support and Development of Public Health as amended:
§ 48 par. 4 letter n):
“In case of public health threats, the public health authority or regional health authority order measures that are: forced isolation of persons ill with a communicable disease or persons suspected of a communicable disease or quarantine of persons suspected of a communicable disease who refuse the ordered measures according to § 12 par. 2 letter f)“.
Concerning inmates, their duties relating the obligation to tolerate the acts of medical searches, hygienic and anti-epidemic measures and the like, are governed also by the following generally binding legal regulations: the Act on Pre-trial Detention no. 221/2006 Coll. as amended and the Act no. 475/2005 Coll. on Prison Sentence Execution as amended.
In connection with the epidemiologic situation (COVID-19), several generally binding legal regulations and amendments have been adopted (e.g. amendments of the Act on Protection, Support and Development of Public Health). Several internal norms within the Corps of Prison and Court Guard have been adopted as well.
No special training activity has been carried out. An internal regulation has been processed and is being updated according to the development of the epidemiologic situation.
Several leaflets of the Central Health Office were distributed to all prisons
In Slovakia, mobile phones are not in use in the prisons.
Due to cancellation of visits, the Corps wants to support the contact of inmates with their close persons and that in the form of making more phone calls and correspondence. In Slovakia, the costs connected with making phone calls are borne by inmates. In the view of above mentioned and after intervention of the Corps, the operator (company) providing telephoning for inmates, decided to provide one-time credit in the amount of 2 € (approximately 20 minutes of calling) to all inmates recorded in system of the Corps. Provided credit is valid from 17 March 2020 and inmates can use it until the time when the visits can be again performed. In case that the inmate does not use this credit, the rest of it shall not be paid to the inmate after his release from prison.
On the basis of confirmed cases infected with the COVID-19, from 6 March 2020 there was stopped all inmates work carried out outside of the Prison Bratislava. From 13 March 2020 there is stopped also inmates work in external workplace that is in outskirts of Bratislava and is ensured by the Prison Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou. On 18 March 2020, 4 other prisons stopped operation of all external workplaces because of other obstacles (e.g. the lack of works for inmates in external workplaces due to anti-epidemic measures at the country level, the lack of protective equipment provided by cooperating entities and similar).
Remark: Slovak Prison Service has 18 prison facilities, including prison hospital. Other outside work of inmates placed in other prisons is on the decision of the particular Prison Governor, considering particular type of external workplace and possible risks.
In connection with inmates work and at current situation, various measures were approved and adopted, including following:
All prison staff shall be informed in their prisons about obligations and restrictions that are related to their service tasks. In case a member of prison staff came from abroad or contacted person who were abroad, he/she shall inform his/her superior about this fact and also his/her personal physician that shall determine further procedure.
Measures connected with quarantine of prison staff:
The Corps shall ensure necessary measures and preparedness of our facilities (Therapeutic – Rehabilitation Centre, Training Facility and parts of the accommodation premises of Training Centre) for potential isolation and placement of the prison staff in the case of quarantine. For this purpose it is necessary to prepare adequate material-technical conditions, including preparing the sanitation plan. The Corps plan to use them as the place of potential quarantine zone for the needs of our prison service.
– Individual prisons shall provide the hand disinfection for all prison staff as well as for prisoners performing the necessary activities within prison.
– Individual prisons shall ensure protective equipment for the prison staff in the form of face masks (Face masks are sewn from harmless materials in 7 prisons using inmates work. As of 18 March 2020, prisoners made more than 28 500 face masks that are gradually distributed).
– Other protective equipment is provided according to the specification of work that the particular person carries out in prison.
– Premises of prison facilities and motor vehicles shall also undergo disinfection.
– Germicidal lamps were purchased and placed to all prisons where are used for cleaning the premises (air and surfaces disinfection by UV radiation).
From 10 March, the body temperature is measured to all persons (including prison staff) entering any of the prison facilities with contactless thermometers. The persons have to wear a face mask. The person who refuses to be measured or his/her body temperature is higher than 37.0 °C or has any symptoms of COVID-19 is not allowed to enter the prison facility. Prison staff serving at entries is equipped with personal protective equipment (face masks, gloves and in case they are in contact with another person more than 15 minutes, also eye protectors).
The Government of the Slovak Republic declared the State of Emergency, effective from 16 March 2020 for state hospitals, which was extended from 19 March 2020 to all health-related segments, regardless of the ownership. This implies an obligation for medical staff to ensure the exercise of health care and a ban on exercising the right to strike The State of Emergency in the whole territory of Slovakia has not been declared yet (as of 20 March 2020).
For any further questions regarding the procedures in the state of emergency taken by the General Directorate of the Corps of Prison and Court Guard of Slovakia please contact the following:
Dominika Gubáňová (Senior Officer for International Co-operation)
General Directorate of the Corps of Prison and Court Guard
Petra Tankovičová (Senior Officer for International Cooperation)
General Directorate of the Corps of Prison and Court Guard
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union