Monday, March 26, 2007

Guard kills two police officers in Polish jail

A prison guard in the central Polish city of Sieradz went on a shooting rampage inside a medium-security detention center, killing two police officers and seriously injuring a third one, German media reports said Monday.

The 28-year-old warden fired at a police car as it entered the prison area to pick up an inmate.

The gunman then proceeded to barricade himself in a watchtower.

Anti-terror units stormed the watchtower and captured the assailant after negotiations failed.

The identity and motives of the attacker who was reportedly on a medical leave after a surgery, were not immediately known.

Overcrowded and chronically under-funded, the Polish correctional system is in a dire state of crisis.

Poland has around 40 million total inhabitants and its prison population rate is one of the highest in all of Europe.

According to the Poland Central Board of Prisons, for every 100,000 inhabitants, 210 are presently incarcerated.

Considering the rate was a mere 153 per 100,000 in 1992, and a staggering 350 and 580 per 100,000 during the 1980s, this rise is a reason for concern among Polish justice officials.

In fact, the roots of the Polish prison reform can be traced back to the early 1990s during which authorities replaced 7,000 jail staff members, about 40 percent, over a two-year period.

However, the issues of inadequate funding and resources continue to slow the prospects of such a much-needed penal reform.