From: Alice Taylor
UK Could Fund Prison in Albania for Repatriated Albanian Criminals

The UK could be set to fund a new prison in Albania to house prisoners repatriated back to the country.

Albanians make up the highest percentage of foreign prisoners in British jails. It’s believed there are more than 1,500 Albanian citizens incarcerated in the UK. It’s not known exactly how many British citizens are in Albanian jails, but the number is believed to be low.

During the last two weeks, various agreements have been signed between the Albanian and British governments regarding the repatriation of convicts. One of these is the prisoner transfer agreement that will see offenders from either country sent home to serve out the rest of their sentence in jail, at the expense of their passport-holding country.

Prisoners will be repatriated even without their consent.

Albanian Minister of Justice Etilda Gjonaj told the media that the agreement could see financial assistance from the UK in housing the convicts upon return. Some of the most common crimes committed include drug-related offenses and people trafficking. Under the terms of the agreement, the entire sentence handed down in the sentencing state must be enforced in the returning country.

It’s reported that Albania is concerned about the possible expenses that will be incurred in returning more than 1,000 prisoners. Gjonaj said that she had suggested “the UK build a prison in Albania or renovate an existing one” and noted that her proposal had been welcomed.

While nothing is concrete, talks are ongoing, but both Ministries of Justice declined to comment.

The UK has funded similar projects before. In 2015, some GBP 25 million offered to part-fund a prison for criminals sent back to Jamaica. The deal was eventually refused by the Jamaican government. A similar plan was discussed with the Nigerian government, but again, the deal fell through.

The Independent noted that repatriating Albanian criminals will save the British taxpayer on average GBP 44,600 per inmate.

Albania has one of the highest incarceration rates out of Council of Europe Member States according to the Annual Penal Statistics for 2020 (SPACE I) report. The incarceration rate per 100,00 is 178, putting it at number 10.

In terms of the demographics of Albania’s prison population, it had one of the lowest percentages of foreign inmates, with just 2.3%.

In terms of offenses committed, more than a quarter of Albanian inmates were incarcerated due to drug-related offenses. They were typically imprisoned for 15.7 years. Almost 30% of prisoners in the country were imprisoned for murder or attempted murder. Some 6.3% are serving life sentences.

Conditions within prisons are not optimal. A 2019 Council of Europe committee that visited Albania to report on the treatment of citizens in police, prison, or psychiatric custody has noted allegations of police ill-treatment, withholding of rights, inhuman and degrading treatment, and instances of detainees being hand and foot cuffed to beds.

The delegation received a significant number of allegations that police had physically ill-treated criminal suspects. Most of these allegations mentioned the use of excessive force at the time of arrest, during transportation, and during initial questioning “with a view to extracting a confession or obtaining information, or as a punishment.” The ill-treatment consisted of “slaps, punches, kicks, blows with an object, and excessively tight handcuffing.”