Serious breaches of legislation uncovered in Mikkeli Prison
An inspection in Mikkeli Prison was conducted by Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja in November 2016. The inspection revealed that the prison applies its own practices and rules that are not based on legislation and that differ from practices followed in other prisons.
As the Imprisonment act (vankeuslaki, 767/2005) and the Remand imprisonment act (tutkintavankeuslaki, 768/2005) have already been valid for over ten years, these breaches of legislation indicate either ignorance or indifference to the statutory provisions.
Remedial actions following the inspection
After the inspection, the Region Centre of the Criminal Sanctions Region of Eastern and Northern Finland and the prison have taken action to remedy the situation.
The prison had, for an extensive period, applied regulations formulated by itself that had not been formally approved by the regional director and that set illegal restrictions on the prisoners. New regulations were drawn up for the prison by the Region Centre in January 2017.
Under the law, a prisoner has the right to appeal administrative decisions that concern him or her. The prison frequently did not make administrative decisions, or failed to provide instructions for appealing them. This prevented the prisoners from using the statutory legal remedies to which they are entitled. According to the prison's report, it has started making administrative decisions in compliance with the law on issues related to the prisoners' treatment and providing instructions for appealing them.
The prison did not have a ward for remand prisoners, whereas under the law and international conventions, remand prisoners should be placed in a separate ward and kept away from convicted prisoners. Wards for remand prisoners have been set up in the prison after the inspection.
Previously, prisoners were not allowed to have trial documents in their possession, which deprived them of appropriate possibilities for preparing for court hearings. Access to documents the prisoners need in order to prepare for a court hearing is currently no longer restricted.
Reprimand for a violation of legal privilege
In the decision made following the inspection, the Deputy-Ombudsman issued the prison with a reprimand for illegal action. A prisoner had been asked to hand over documents intended for the legal representative for the prison to inspect, which constituted a violation of legal privilege. The Deputy-Ombudsman found this a serious violation. The reprimand also concerned the fact that the prison repeatedly neglected the obligation to respond to the questions contained in the request for information.
The prison's practices regarding leaves of absence, discipline and visitors differ from those applied in other prisons and are very strict. Based on observations made during the inspection, the relationships between the prisoners and staff appeared worse than usual and fraught with tension.
While the prison facilities were new, the requirements set in the Imprisonment act and the Remand imprisonment act had not been met in the building projects, and the prison lacks facilities that it should have. Possibilities for physical exercise are also very poor; for instance, as an exception to other prisons there is no gym.
The Deputy-Ombudsman requested the Criminal Sanctions Agency to report by 1 May 2017 on the measures taken as a consequence of the observations recorded in items 1-26 of the inspection minutes.
Inspection minutes of Mikkeli Prison (EOAK/4397/2016) and the full text of the aforementioned decision (EOAK/4976/2016) have been published on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at http//www.oikeusasiamies.fi/
More information on the decision concerning the violation of legal privilege is available from Principal Legal Adviser Pasi Pölönen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3345
Further information on the inspection minutes of Mikkeli Prison is available from Senior Legal Adviser Matti Vartia, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3378