Switzerland: court rules prison earnings cannot be seized

Switzerland’s top court has ruled that money earned in prison cannot be confiscated to cover legal costs.

The Federal Court made the decision on Thursday in the case of an Afghan man who was sentenced in July 2018 to nine years behind bars for a series of charges, including the attempted premeditated murder of his wife. He appealed and that trial is still pending.

In January, the man wanted to hand over CHF4,000 ($4,100) to another person that he had earned while in prison. However, the money was confiscated to secure the costs of legal proceedings, following an order by the president of the criminal division of the high court of canton Nidwalden in central Switzerland.

The prisoner successfully appealed to the Federal Supreme Court. In their verdict, the Lausanne-based judges stated that the salary was an unseizable asset.

Because most prisoners are over-indebted, a seizure of wages would have an adverse effect on their motivation to work and thus on safety in the penal system, the court explained in its judgement. Prisoners would also be unable to save anything for the time after their release, which would be detrimental to rehabilitation, the judges reasoned.

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