The Hungarian government suspended payments to convicts for allegedly poor jail conditions following public uproar over the taxpayer-funded legal payments.
Pál Völlner, state minister of the Justice Ministry, told national news agency MTI on Saturday that in accordance with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s radio interview the previous day, the government has already approved the relevant decree to halt the payments.
The issue of compensation for prisoners over jail conditions came to the forefront of public attention at the prime minister’s Jan. 9 press conference where he said it was unacceptable that criminals receive state handouts when it should be the victims who get it.
“Hungarian people are right,” Orbán said, “in saying that their tax money shouldn’t be used for paying out rewards for convicted criminals because some lawyers can achieve this in court.”
Last year, Hungary paid over three billion forints (€8.9 million) after several hundred court decisions.
In what government official say is a wide-ranging “prison business”, lawyers, mostly with ties to liberal NGOs, represent convicts in court who make allegations about poor prison conditions in Hungary.
In turn, total payments to these prisoners so far have reached 10 billion forints in over 12,000 cases since the law regarding compensation was passed in 2015.
Völlner said Hungarian society finds the practice unacceptable and the Hungarian Justice Ministry has already begun a review of the relevant legislation which may be discussed as soon as at this week’s cabinet meeting.
He added that in the past few years new, modern prisons have been constructed and prison capacities have also increased.
Title image: Prison cell in Hungary (MTI/János Vajda)