Riga’s central prison: There is no indication where Zegelis could end up serving time or how this prison compares to others in Latvia, but it is sure to be tougher than Westgate. *Photo courtesy of e-seap.eu
Riga’s central prison: There is no indication where Zegelis could end up serving time or how this prison compares to others in Latvia, but it is sure to be tougher than Westgate. *Photo courtesy of e-seap.eu

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13: Janis Zegelis could be repatriated and serve at least some of his 25 years in a Latvian prison.

But he’d be much better off at Westgate as Latvian prisons are reportedly not up to international standards.

Zegelis was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday on drug and firearm charges.

At Westgate, Zegelis will have a cell to himself, three meals a day, recreational activities, lounge areas and more.

But in Riga, Latvia’s capital, he could expect roach-infested cells, derelict, decaying buildings, unappetizing food and cold-water showers once a week.

Latvian prisons have been called the worst in the Baltics by www.euranet.eu, a European radio network.

The website said: “Like many prisons elsewhere in Europe, Latvian prisons suffer from overcrowding and poor conditions.  The authorities promise they will to build new prisons to improve the situation, but construction can’t start before 2013, because of a lack of funds.”

And according to www.state.gov, the US State Department site, “conditions in prisons and detention centres [in Latvia] remained poor and did not meet international standards”.

On www.prisonersabroad.org.uk, ex-inmate ‘Ian’ writes about spending two years and six months in Rigas Centralcietums, the largest prison in Riga.

He was able to transfer to a UK prison to serve his time. The article doesn’t say what he was jailed for but Ian writes: “You are very likely to experience every facet of their creaking prison system, from insanitary cockroach-infested cells to bullying, intimidation and beatings from other prisoners, and sometimes from the officers.

“Your sanity will be severely tested and most people, whether they like to admit to it or not, will be driven to the edge of despair or beyond.

“So, for me, the decision to transfer to a UK prison was not a difficult one and in fact the very prospect became a beacon of hope in some very dark times.”

He added: “The food was the same on each day of the week and although adequate to sustain you, was always overcooked, unpalatable and devoid of any nutrients.

“Enhancing the diet with additional food and vitamins purchased from the overpriced prison shop with your own money was essential if you wanted to avoid becoming pale and gaunt like many of the ‘ghosts’ who had had the misfortune to spend any length of time there without access to their own money.”

Ian eventually applied for a prison transfer, which took seven months. He said because there is no Legal Aid in Latvia, a private lawyer is in the only way to get a prison transfer.