UK investigating possibility of moving inmates to Estonian prisons

Viru Prison in Jõhvi is one of three penitentiaries in Estonia.
Viru Prison in Jõhvi is one of three penitentiaries in Estonia. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Estonian jails are under consideration as a potential destination for inmates from the United Kingdom, as part of an effort to deal with overcrowding in that country's prison system, The Times reports.

The British government has been in discussion with various European countries on the possibility of renting out surplus prison cell spaces, Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk, who visited Estonia in the summer, told the Conservative Party conference taking place in Manchester this week.

This would entail a legislative change in England and Wales, to enable prisoners to serve terms outside of the U.K.

Rait Kuuse, the Ministry of Justice undersecretary for prisons told ERR's Russian-language news that the rental option in other countries such as Estonia would run in parallel to new prison construction in Britain.

Kuuse noted that the number of inmates in Estonia is falling, while cell occupancy rates are already among the lowest in the EU.

Kuuse stressed that the talks, which his ministry had been involved in with U.K. officials, were very much at a preliminary stage, and again, the legislature in Estonia would need to be involved, should things ever get that far.

ERR's Russian-language news reported that across Estonia's three prisons, in Tallinn, Tartu and Jõhvi (Viru Prison), there are a little under two thousand inmates incarcerated, with around 16 percent of these on remand and the remainder serving sentences.

Tallinn Prison on its own has a capacity for nearly 1,200 inmates, Tartu and Viru a little under a thousand each.

Former Minister of Justice Lea Danislon-Järg (Isamaa) told ERR News in February that there was plenty of spare capacity in Estonia's jails and that accommodating inmates from other countries was thus a potential option.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Sergei Mihhailov, Aleksandr Semjonov, Mait Ots

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