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Critical report

Life prisoners get “raw deal” in Switzerland

The 132 prisoners currently serving life sentences in Switzerland, with little or no chance of parole or even release, should be kept separate from other inmates and given better conditions, according to a critical report of the Swiss prison system.

A government commissioned report, seen by Swiss public television SRF, states that prison lifers should have separate facilities, receive better visiting rights, have more time out of doors than normal inmates and have access to communication tools such as Skype.

Such detainees may already have served their sentence but have been deemed still so dangerous to society that they have been kept behind bars to protect the public.

The report’s author, Jörg Künzli, a expert on civil rights at the University of Bern, told SRF’s 10vor 10 news programme that Switzerland falls some way short of international best practices in the detention of such people – almost all of whom are kept in normal prisons.

“International standards clearly state that life prisoners should be treated better after they have served their normal sentence,” he told 10 vor 10.

But not everybody agrees with Künzli’s assessment of the situation. Thomas Fritschi, president of the Swiss Prisons Association, said that financial constraints at the cantonal funded prisons would impede the application of the recommendations.

“Many cantons are in financial trouble, therefore making these proposals impractical,” he said.

Natalie Rickli, a parliamentarian with the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, also rejected the report’s findings, saying that conditions for inmates in Switzerland were already good by international standards. “I don’t understand why you would want to liberalise law enforcement any further,” she said.

swissinfo.ch with agencies


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