Prison in the centre of Vilnius

Article published on Feb. 2, 2009
community published
Article published on Feb. 2, 2009
The fact that the prison is located in the centre of the capital is an abnormality. It's a manifestation of the punishing hand of the state for some, while for others it is a perceived security risk. Today I read an article stating that the prison located right in the centre of Vilnius and known for very poor conditions for the prisoners will not be relocated to another place for the time being.
The prison is close to my office, it's a huge old building, which was built in 1904. At that time it was the most modern prison in Tsarist Russia. The ensemble consists of the prison, an administrative building and a Russian Orthodox church, a very beautiful one indeed. It's all protected heritage.

Photo from the official website of the prison, www.lukiskes.lt

Yet the cells are too small and the building is badly in need for reconstruction. This would cost more than building new premises for the prison. The prison was supposed to be relocated to a small town in the district of Vilnius, but the inhabitants are protesting this decision and have filed complaints. Nobody wants to live near a prison due to perceived security risks. In fact, it's not so much about the possibility of prisoners escaping, but, I guess, about the illegal channels of supplying drugs, mobile phones and other things for the "shadow economy" in the prison.

However, the fact that the prison is located in the centre of the capital is an abnormality. It's a manifestation of the punishing hand of the state for some, while for others it is a perceived security risk. A kindergarten is located right next to the prison, so people joke that if anyone escaped, they would have no trouble finding hostages. Even more importantly, the parliament is just a block away! People joke that the prison stands as a reminder for the politicians: look where your career might end. The name of the locality, Lukiškės, has obvious connections with the imagery of the prison, although the name applies to a square nearby and a street close to the prison. "You might end up in Lukiškės" is a popular warning for wrongdoers. Thus, although the relocation of the prison would remove this dreadful element from the centre of the city (and dismantle the combination representing the "evil" state, as anarchists would see it - parliament-prison-courts-government all located on one axis), it would also change the folklore that has evolved around the 100+-year-old prison.