A STROLL IN THE PRISON’S COURTYARD: President Dalia Grybauskaite visits Lukiskes Prison.
VILNIUS - On Jan. 26, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was in prison. She visited the Lukiskes Prison, situated in the very heart of Vilnius. The prison was built in 1904. Then it was the biggest prison of the Russian Empire. The prison’s history is rich - political prisoners (some of them later became famous, or infamous) - for example, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Felix Dzerzhinsky, godfather of the KGB) as well as many people who did not take part in any political activity but had fallen into disgrace with the occupational regimes suffered there. The prison should be closed by 2014. Then it will be sold - it will be the perfect opportunity for precious real estate hunters.
There are now 1,000 inmates spending their days and nights in that huge and gloomy building. Some 500 of them are sentenced criminals while another 500 are arrested suspects whose cases are under pending investigations.
There are three institutions in the Lukiskes: the prison, the inquisitorial institution for those not sentenced yet and the prison hospital. Grybauskaite said that the prison should be closed as soon as possible.
“It was built in 1904. The czar’s spirit is still alive in that building - the living conditions are terrible. People have no conditions to socialize. It is an open wound in the heart of Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius,” Grybauskaite said in a briefing near the gates of Lukiskes after her visit in the prison. She emphasized that inmates should have conditions suitable for human beings.
Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius assisted the president during her trip to Lukiskes. He said that the prison will be moved from Lukiskes earlier, in 2012, reacting to the Grybauskaite demand. In 2014, the inquisitorial institution and the prison hospital will be moved.
In a briefing at the prison’s gate, Simasius speculated that it will be cheaper for the government to pay rent for some private prison than to repair Lukiskes, which is in awful condition. At the same time, Simasius tried to soften a little bit Grybauskaite’s criticism regarding the living conditions in Lukiskes.
“People get there not because of some decent jobs. They cannot expect conditions of some rest-house,” Simasius said. Among Lukiskes’ prisoners are all those who get life imprisonment in Lithuania. There are 82 prisoners who are serving life imprisonment there.