Czech Civic Democrats want to suspend welfare for misdemeanor recidivists
The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) submitted a bill on 1 October in the Czech lower house that would make it possible to deprive welfare recipients of their benefits, including housing benefits, for up to three months should the recipient commit a misdemeanor three times during the course of one year, whether the infraction was disturbing nighttime quiet or petty theft. The proposed measures are part of a bill establishing the rules for when entitlement to welfare benefits elapses.
The main author of the bill is Czech MP Jan Bauer, who attempted to explain his motivation to news server iDNES.cz: "This is in response to the fact that people who live near some of these complicated areas or zones of towns are complaining quite frequently that other residents are drawing aid to those in material distress, including housing benefits, while also permanently committing misdemeanors - various thefts, being drunk in public, or disrupting nighttime quiet." The bill would allow such "sinners" to be stripped of their entitlement to welfare temporarily.
Persons so deprived of eligibility would be able to draw welfare again if they were to keep a clean misdemeanor record for one year, but if they were to re-offend, another 12-month probation period would restart for them after the new offense. The authors of the bill are aware that depriving some persons of their welfare benefits could be too harsh a punishment, so the bill counts on the option for local employment authorities to take an "individual approach" to such offenders and to disburse the welfare anyway if the municipality where the welfare recipient resides agrees.
"Today if somebody repeatedly commits misdemeanors, nobody can touch that person's welfare benefits. The law does not know how to address this yet," Bauer told iDNES.cz.
"We'll see how the Chamber of Deputies positions itself on this bill. We'll be reaching out to our colleagues from other parties for support," the MP said.
The bill counts on a welfare recipient having committed three misdemeanors before being temporarily stripped of benefits - the option is not meant to be used to punish the kind of "random excesses" that might be committed by somebody just once. Besides misdemeanors, other cases in which entitlement to welfare could elapse would also be legislated by the ODS bill.
Persons convicted of a felony and sentenced to a maximum of three years' probation would not be entitled to welfare for six months, while those waiting to begin serving a prison sentence would lose their entitlement until they begin their incarceration, for 12 months' maximum. None of these measures would apply to persons younger than 18.
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