Sometimes a news story just drives me off the wall. Does that ever happen to you? Yes, Tim, I know your answer.
Here’s the lead in to a story published in Wednesday’s eKathimerini, the online version of Athens “equivalent” to The New York Times.
“Greece's largest maximum security prison won't get to keep its waterfall-adorned, barbecue-equipped pool.”
|The Grecian Pool that created all the fuss.|
It gives you the image of prisoners lounging around a pool eating lamb chops while “One of three Greeks has serious financial woes”--another headline story in the same paper.
|The Elegant Barbeque unmasked by the media.|
It’s almost enough to make the decent, law-abiding overlook another story. The one about the Greek “Tax Ministry mulling another tax amnesty to collect revenues.” Greece did that in 2010. It allows you to pay a “one-off fee” so that your outstanding tax affairs are not investigated. The new one would cover arrears up through 2011. Can you imagine a better way to encourage tax evasion than by offering tax cheats another get out of jail (almost) free card? But at least if some do get caught and serve time they won’t have a swimming pool to look forward to.
By the way, it wasn’t taxpayer dollars that paid for the pool, though I assume the Ministry of Justice will be sure they are used to destroy it.
Guess who paid for it? Greece’s Prison Officers Association. Yes, you read that correctly. The prison guards raised money to build a twenty-four-foot pool for the use of the staff and inmates of the prison’s psychiatric wing. Their purpose: “To change things for the better—viewing inmates as human beings, not numbers.”
The Ministry claims the pool was built without its “permission” and did not comply with “health and safety standards.” I’d appreciate it if those of you familiar with Greek construction practices would please stop laughing. As for the claim of no permission, how could the Ministry not know about a 7.4-meter pool being built in the middle of the prison of yard of Greece’s largest maximum-security prison? Then again, with all the celebrated escapes from that prison by high profile inmates (the most recent only a few weeks ago by a notorious Pink Panther-style jewel thief) those in charge may not have known.
|Olivera Cirkovic, Pink Panther escapee|
|One of two separate helicopter escapes by same prisoner|
Frankly, I thought the Prison Officers Association’s efforts should have been applauded across the nation as a proud example of how Greeks truly care about what happens to other members of the human race.
I’m well aware of what goes on inside a prison because for a-half-dozen years I served as Special Counsel to the New York City Board of Correction. I know that correction officers spend more of their lives in prison than the inmates. Their opinions on what would help deserves far more weight than any politician’s knee-jerk “let’s show I’m tough on crime” blustering.
Just think of all the time, care, and energy it took for so many to visualize and bring that pool into being. And how easy it was for a single, dismissive, bureaucratic reaction to destroy such genuine acts of human kindness.
Shame on you, Ministry of Justice.
Besides, there’s no need for any Greek politician to show the world how tough the country is on the criminals they catch. The world already knows. After all, the prison that created all this fuss, Korydallos Prison Complex in Pireaus, has long been rated by Amnesty International as one of the worst prisons in Europe, repeatedly cited for overcrowding and inhumane treatment of detainees. And that was before Greece’s financial crisis and spike in crime.
|Korydallos Prison Complex south of Athens|