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Die Osterreichische Justiz

Mentally ill prisoner left to rot

Austria is facing a justice scandal after it has emerged that a 74-year-old mentally ill prisoner was left with rotting feet in his cell and was only treated after guards smelled the decay.

The prisoner in the Krems-Stein prison suffers from severe psychological problems but is reported to be a 'difficult inmate' who has refused care. He is serving a jail sentence for attemped murder and has been in prison since 1995.

In an interview with Falter, where the story was first published, Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter said that "it was a disaster" and that "such a thing should not happen".

The Minister has said that the three officials who were responsible for the care were suspended from duty. He also declared that the case is symptomatic of more general structural weaknesses in prisons that "we must root out" and has set up a working group to evaluate the situation this year.

Director for the prison Bruno Sladek has said that high number of prisoners that need extra care puts pressure on staff. "We unfortunately have many extremely difficult prisoners. At full occupancy we can't watch everybody all the time," he said. "That is a huge burden for the staff."

Sladek said that the number of mentally ill prisoners is high in the prison - out of a total of 820 inmates, 115 of them suffer from mental illness. As well as this, the number of older prisoners is increasing steadily.

The man's feet were noticed in March after months of going untreated, and he has now received treatment in the infirmary and they are healing. He is at the end of May expected to moved to a "different, small unit".

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