Austria has Abolished Prisons for Women

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Austria has Abolished Prisons for Women

by Inge Schwertberger
August 12, 2018

The Austrian government decided a few months ago to close the prisons for female prisoners. Instead of jailing the women they are allowed to stay in their homes under supervision of their families or friends for the duration of the sentence. It can also be churches or other social institutions which take care of them during this time.

The women are set under strict rules. All of them have to wear covering clothes which show that they are prisoners, as well as they show what each woman has committed. In addition they all are gagged. They are banned from using public transport and their credit cards and mobiles are taken into custody. They have only permission to be out of the house in case it’s necessary for their jobs or for family life.

This handout picture released by the ItaClass One                                          Class Two                              Class Three


There are three different classifications in this system. The classification of a woman depends on her crime record. Women who have previously committed a crime are assigned Class One (red patches). These women are set under special supervision, they are not allowed to walk in public alone, and they even have to stay covered at home when not alone. In addition to the full covering they have to wear two short chains which connects their wrists and their ankles respectively. There is a slit over the belly button in their covering but they are not allowed to show their hands in public; their chaperone is to put and take items. They can apply for permission to be transferred to Class Two after half of their sentence is over.

The women in Class Two (yellow patches) can leave the house unaccompanied but they have to wear their covering clothes and the chains everywhere in public. The clothing includes long gloves and the thigh long body covering in public has to be attached to the dress at the front and the back to severely limit arm movement. In general Class Two is for women who previously had a clean criminal record. They can apply for permission to be transferred to the least strict Class Three after having served half of their time as well.

Class Two women out in public

In Class Three (green patches) the women basically only have to be gagged and covered. Beside that they have no further restrictions to face. They do not have to wear chains and they may make the body covering lift as to freely use their gloved hands.

We had the chance to meet a young woman sentenced to Class Three in a small café close to the university. She came to the table, did a bow, pointed to the other chair and was invited to sit. She was thanked for us to have this chance to talk with someone serving under the new prison laws to which she nodded. Then she did a gesture like writing down something to receive a pen and paper and she wrote:

‘Thanks for the invitation. You know I am gagged. I will answer your questions this way.’

She was asked for her name.

‘Just call me Hacker like everyone else do. It’s part of the sentence, it reminds me of what I did.’

“Well, Hacker, may I ask how long you have to be covered like this?”

‘They sentenced me to ten months, five are gone by now. I wear this outside the house.’

“How is it for you to be punished this way? Would you prefer to be in jail?”

‘No, not at all! I can go on with university. Even if it is shameful to run around this covered it is my fault. Be sure I will do all I can to stay a good girl after this experience.’

“Hacker, what do you miss most?”

‘To use my voice and wear make up.’

She started writing the second after the question was posed. Than after a short reflexion she continued:

‘OK, also to go out in the evening and have fun. I don’t mean that I want to party every night, but just to visit a restaurant a couple of times a month would be nice.’

“Being gagged not only prevents you from speaking of course. One last question:
Your eyes are hardly visible through the green fabric but you seem to have no trouble writing?”

‘The eye covering is thinner than it looks here in the dim light of the café. I can see almost normally but I see everything through an annoying light green haze. Did you know the fabric gets thicker for each of the stricter classes? It is not only to ensure Class One women stay on the right side of the law they have to be accompanied when leaving their home.’

I thanked her for the short talk. We left the cafe together.

Copyright 2014 ZwDA


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