The risks of laxness in the prison sector

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The truth is that if the guards at Korydallos prison had fired at the convict Vassilis Palaiocostas and another inmate as they made their escape aboard a helicopter and the craft's fuel tank had been hit (a likely scenario, according to the president of the guards' union), then those ranting on television debates about the danger of arms misfiring would still be ranting - but from a different camp. They would be condemning the rash actions of prison guards that cost X number of lives.

Of course, there is a great difference between not firing because one is assessing the potential risks and not firing because one has been utterly taken by surprise. In the first instance, there is a competent but cautious approach; the latter case is due to mixture of inexperience and indifference that is typical of the public sector.

But it appears that the responsibility for Sunday's jailbreak does not lie with the guards alone; indeed, there appear to be shortfalls at all levels of the state machine. After all, the prison guards had foreseen the risk of a possible escape attempt by helicopter and had called for barbed wire to be laid out above the prison's exercise yard. But their request was denied and it is not too difficult to guess why.

When the decision was made to put barbed wire over the yard allocated to convicted members of November 17, there was a public outcry that they were being deprived of a clear view of the sky.

This does not mean that the Public Order Ministry is not to be blame. There will always be those who regard convicted terrorists as political prisoners. But when a security shortfall is detected, action should be taken to rectify it. And let Dimitris Koufodinas's friends shout all they want.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 08/06/2006