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Mayors not ready for prison breaks

System of warning or informing locals living close to prisons is missing.

The Leopoldov prison(Source: TASR)

When a group of violent prisoners escaped from prison in Leopoldov in 1991 people living in Žlkovce village, which is only 3.5 kilometres from the prison, did not know exactly what to do. They learned about the escape but thought that the prisoners were far away and continued their normal lives. Actually, the prisoners were hiding in a haystack at a nearby collective farm before being caught in a few hours.

The system of informing the public about possible threats has not significantly changed in the past 25 years. When Ľubomír Behan escaped from the same prison on June 2 locals and their mayors again did not know exactly what to do.

Locals contacted by The Slovak Spectator said that when they heard about the escaped prisoner in early June they expected things would be different than in 1991 when nobody told them that they should not walk through the streets. But they say nothing has changed.

Read also: Read also:Manhunt for escaped prisoner continues

There is no system of warning or any official document that would deal with such cases, according to Tibor Stanko, the mayor of Žlkovce.

“There is no cooperation between a prison and municipalities,” Stanko told The Slovak Spectator. “Maybe it is because this is only the second escape since the Velvet Revolution [in 1989].”

There are 18 prisons in Slovakia and in June 2016 they held 8,740 convicts and another 1,497 people accused of committing crimes. Since January 2010 as many as 14 prisoners have tried to escape, while four of them have been successful.

Students confined

Without an official request from authorities Žlkovce municipality decided to not inform the public about the escape, believing that people already know about it from the media.

“People learned about it immediately,” Stanko said. “I personally learned of it from my acquaintance in Madunice village an hour after it happened.”

Drahovce village Mayor Juraj Klein chose a more careful approach and besides informing the public via a local broadcaster, he confined children in their schools.

“School employees told us that we should come for our children by car and people were scared, wondering what this could mean,” Drahovce resident Ľubomír Miklovič told The Slovak Spectator.

No education for people

Madunice village Mayor Alena Jelušová received information from the chief of the local police. She said that in such cases the municipality informs the public via local radio broadcaster. The chief of the municipal police personally visits important institutions in the village, she added.

“They told us that there is police action in Hlohovec [a town close to Leopoldov],” Madunice shopkeeper Jozef told The Slovak Spectator without providing his last name.

There is no system of warning or informing between Madunice and Leopoldov, according to Jelušová.

“Officially, we haven’t signed any contract on cooperation in this matter,” Jelušová told The Slovak Spectator.

The Prison and Justice Guard Corps (ZVJS) refused to provide details on their behaviour during extraordinary situations but admitted that they do not educate or alert villagers.

“The Prison and Justice Guard Corps doesn’t provide courses for residents of towns and villages where prisons are,” Adrián Baláž of ZVJS told the Sme daily.

People are not afraid

A few hours after Behan escaped, people living close to Leopoldov saw police checkpoints on roads, dogs searching for trails and choppers flying above their heads, but peace soon returned to the region.

Locals contacted by The Slovak Spectator said they are not afraid of the nearby prison. Peter, working in a tobacco shop in Madunice, said that escaped prisoners are more afraid of other people. As they try to escape they avoid others, he said.

Stanko explained people’s calmness by the fact that many of the locals or their relatives work at the prison so it is a normal part of their lives.

The situation after Behan escaped was not as bad as it was in 1991, according to Miklovič.

“I have small children so I had respect for this situation but I wasn’t afraid,” Miklovič said. “It wasn’t as bad as escapes by prisoners in the past.”

Tibor Stanko is the father of the editor-in-chief of TSS.

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