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Presentation of Monitoring Report in Parliament Following Visits to Four Penitentiary Establishments

On January 21, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, presented a special report of the National Preventive Mechanism at the session of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and reviewed the results of the monitoring carried out in the establishments N2, N8, N14 and N15.

The Public Defender talked about the scale of informal governance in the penitentiary institutions, as well as health care, overcrowding, staff shortage and rehabilitation-resocialization problems.

The Public Defender has been recommending the Government for years to develop a strategy to overcome the criminal subculture and to take targeted, complex measures; inter alia, to implement the dynamic security concept in practice, fight against impunity, strengthen rehabilitation services in the establishments, create adequate detention conditions, raise prisoners’s awareness, encourage and enable prisoners to take part in a variety of valuable activities, which would serve to reduce the impact of criminal subculture in the establishments.

According to the information obtained during monitoring, there is no violence-free environment in the establishments and the criminal subculture creates dangers of ill-treatment, including physical and severe psychological violence. Psychological violence is mainly manifested in extortion, humiliation, marginalization and other acts.

In the semi-open facility, the Special Preventive Group was followed by a group of convicts (presumably members of the criminal subculture), which did not allow other inmates to speak openly.

The problem is complicated by the fact that inmates are not properly aware of their rights and responsibilities and refuse to exercise their right to complain due to the influence of the criminal subculture and fear of repression. The number of applications sent to the Public Defender's Office decreases with the increased influence of informal governance.

Overcoming informal governance requires developing a multi-component strategy. The recommendation of the Public Defender is that the State should prevent the delegation of powers to informal leaders and maintain order and security itself. Along with small penitentiary institutions, it is necessary to increase the number of staff and strengthen their operational capabilities and competence; at the same time, rehabilitation services should be strengthened and appropriate detention conditions should be provided.

In terms of pressure exerted on prisoners by staff, the practice of placing prisoners in the de-escalation rooms for a long time, for inappropriate and punitive purposes, remains a significant challenge. The Public Defender hopes that the Parliament will regulate the existing problem and that, through legislative changes, the maximum term of placement in the de-escalation room will be reduced from 72 to 24 hours.

When presenting the report on post-monitoring results, the Public Defender also spoke about the penitentiary health care problems, the number and qualifications of the medical staff, proper maintenance of medical documentation, protection of confidentiality, timely implementation of medical referrals and the situation of preventive health care. She also talked about the difficulties in providing quality psychiatric care. The Public Defender noted that low salaries and difficult working conditions lead to the shortage of the staff.

At the end of the speech, the Public Defender answered MPs’ questions. She noted that the main purpose of such reports was to solve problems as soon as the first signs emerge and that the state authorities must take necessary measures before the situation becomes more complicated and the process becomes irreversible.

The Special Preventive Group of the Public Defender of Georgia visited the penitentiary establishments N2, N8, N14 and N15 in July and August 2019. In compliance with the methodology, group interviews were conducted with 610 prisoners and individual interviews - with 206 prisoners. The special report was published on the Public Defender's website on December 24, 2019.

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