The dramatic escape by helicopter from Athens maximum security Korydallos jail by two prisoners for the second time last week turned convicted kidnappers, Vasilis Paleokostas and Alket Razai into folk heros for many ordinary Greeks. Betting sites are offering odds on if the two will be recaptured whilst on Facebook the Paleokostas Airlines group has already 51,000 members.
However, for the 12,000 other prisoners behind bars in Greece's grim jails conditions are set to deteriorate still further as the new minister for Justice, Nikos Dendias has annouced a series of measures designed to clamp down on "lax practices" by prison officers. In many cases the concessions won by prisoners after last November's mass hunger strike (see here for full story) have been revoked or will not be implemented.
As Ioanna Drosou, a prisoners' rights activist said in an interview with Greek net - based news service TVXS.gr the government has reneged on their promises to improve the conditions in the country's jails despite have been repeatedly condemned by organisations such as Amnesty and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
Arbitary violence by prison officers, widespread drug use, overcrowding and primitive health care facilities have all been cited as areas that need to be tackled in order to bring Greek jails in line with European standards.
However, last week's prison break out which has severely embarrased the ruling New Democracy government has lead instead to a tightening of security, a move which prisoners rights organisations such as the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners argue will futher isolate inmates from wider society and add to ths problems inherent in the prison system.