Prosecutors Take on Justice Ministry in Prisoner Numbers Row (1)
ETV's Pealtnägija program highlighted a dispute between prosecutors at the Northern District Prosecutor's Office and the Justice Ministry, after the latter asked prosecutors to seek fewer prison sentences in order to satisfy a European Court of Human Rights ruling.
The ECHR ruling, made at the beginning of the year, stated that prisoners must each have cell space of at least three square meters, and according to Pealtnägija, 100 fewer prisoners in Estonia would mean that requirement can be met.
At least three Estonian prisoners have so far taken the nation to court on the grounds of the ruling. The cases are pending.
The ministry sent an order in October to prosecutor's offices around the country, with the northern district branch required to ask courts for 18 fewer prison sentences per year.
The email caused uproar among prosecutors, with some drawing similarities with North Korea, others saying the order is illegal and their work should not be predetermined by the number they are allowed to send to jail.
Justice Minister Hanno Pevkur said that crime levels have fallen in Estonia, but inmate numbers have remained unchanged. He also said that each prisoner costs the state 1,000 euros per month, and huge savings can be made.
Prosecutor General Norman Aas put the emotional outbursts by prosecutors down to miscommunication, saying that the goal was to have prosecutors review past cases to see where fewer sentences could be made. He added that they have already reached this year's goal.