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Prison et religion

The religious rights of imprisoned people have been regulated by the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia on Legal Issues, signed in December 1996. According to this agreement, the Republic of Croatia guarantees to the Catholic Church the right of religious assistance to believers in prisons, hospitals, health resorts, orphanages, and in all other public or private health and welfare institutions. By an additional agreement signed in 2002, the Croatian Bishops’ Conference has the right to name five chaplains who become the employees of the Ministry of Justice and are paid by the Ministry. Penitentiaries, prisons, and correctional institutions should provide appropriate place for chaplaincy. All other details of the work of the chaplains have to be arranged with prisons authorities. The chaplains’ visits to prisoners as well as religious services should be allowed at least once a week. In addition, prisoners have the right to personal religious literature. This document regulates also details for Christmas and Easter confessions, baptism, and religious marriages in penitentiaries and prisons, as well as some other rights.

The religious rights of imprisoned people of other religious communities have been regulated by agreements signed with 19 religious communities. These agreements regulate the position of chaplaincy in a similar way to the Catholic Church, though with some differences, which are mainly explained by the size of a particular religious community.

Also, the Law on Execution of Prison Sentences stipulates that prisoners have the right of confession and of contact with authorized religious person. In addition, the law requires that food is provided according to the prisoner’s religious or cultural demands, but only according to the possibilities of each prison. If a prison is not ably to satisfy the prisoners’ demand to eat some specific food, prisoners must have the possibility to obtain the specific food in the prison’s shop, at the prisoner’s expense, however.

In order to ensure that religious rights of prisoners are respected, the Ministry of Justice issued a circular in 2012 to all penitentiaries and prisons in which it specified the rights of prisoners regarding religion. These rights are derived from the Law on Legal Status of Religious Communities, agreements with the Holy See, and agreements with other religious communities signed by the Government. However, the circular listed all registered religious communities from the Register of religious communities of the Ministry of Administration, and specified that all penitentiaries and prisons have the obligation to enable the contact of all interested prisoners, with their representatives who are appointed by the appropriate religious community, in accordance with law. Thus, religious rights of prisoners should be respected even if a prisoner belong to other registered religious communities, and not only to those which signed an agreement with the Government.

There is not much data on how these provisions are respected, but according to the first small research done in 2017 (co-researched by the author of this information) it seems that representatives of all religious communities have an equal access to prisons. Future research should provide new light on how prisoners practice their religion and if there are differences according to belonging and not belonging to different religious communities.

D 22 août 2017    ASiniša Zrinščak

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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