A lawyer for the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights warned that the announced stiffer penalties for crimes is a populist measure which will not help bring down crime rates.
Lawyer Nikola Kovacevic said that a lot of the prison sentences being handed down could be replaced with alternative sanctions, primarily house arrest, leaving lesser offenders in familiar surroundings, not overcrowded jails.
“The data from other countries confirms that view but the authorities are heading in the opposite direction,” he told a round table on alternative sanctions which included a presentation of research conducted in several places across Serbia. That research showed that alternative sanctions account for up to 10 percent of the total number of sentences.
He said that Serbian jails are overcrowded, housing more inmates than they were built for which makes the purpose of punishment meaningless and leads to repeat offenders accounting for a large part of the people in jail.
Alternative sanctions would allow the people sentenced to stay at home, go to school or keep their jobs instead of going to jail and being influenced by criminals.