Krems prison officials suspended
Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter has suspended three prison officers from Krems-Stein prison after an investigation revealed that an elderly mentally ill prisoner had been practically forgotten in his cell, and left "to rot".
Brandstetter has also announced that he plans to reform the prison structure, and may also restructure management.
An investigation into Austrian prisons by the Falter paper exposed the shocking case of neglect and has triggered disciplinary and criminal hearings against officials.
The 74-year-old inmate was “ignored and forgotten” for several months. His legs were severely inflamed and covered with calluses and sores, and in need of medical attention. Prison officers told Falter that a "strong odour of decay" was noticeable from his cell.
"This should not have happened," Christian Timm of the prison directorate told the Austrian Press Agency (APA).
The Krems prosecutor is now investigating if officials are guilty of torturing or neglecting the prisoner.
In a prison memo dated March 13, 2014 the prosecutor noted that "officials should have noticed the condition of the man's legs earlier, as well as the terrible stench."
According to APA the suspended officials are the head of the prison wing, the head of the relevant department, and his deputy. One of the men, Roman Söllner, is also involved in politics - he is active in the AUF union and is number 15 on the Freedom Party's list for the EU elections.
Brandstetter said the three men had been temporarily suspended so as not to endanger the criminal investigation.
The Justice Minister has set up a working group which will evaluate what he said are "massive, structural weaknesses in the prison system".
The chairman of the AUF, Werner Herbert, said the case was "regrettable" and down to "a tragic chain of circumstances", but he criticised the Justice Minister for suspending the three officials, saying it was "a transparent election move".
The prisoner is now recovering and will be moved to another, smaller institution by the end of the month.