Public Defender’s Report on Monitoring Carried out in Penitentiary Establishment No. 3
In the context of the epidemic caused by novel coronavirus in Georgia, the members of the Special Preventive Group of the Public Defender studied the epidemiological situation and rights situation of prisoners in Penitentiary Establishment No. 3. The Public Defender positively assesses the epidemiological situation in the establishment. The dedication of employees, who have to work in the establishment without leaving it for a certain period of time, should be praised.
The ban on long and short visits due to the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus has had a bigger impact on inmates at high-risk facilities, who generally have very limited contact with the outside world. Inter alia, they do not have the right to enjoy video meetings. As in previous years, the environment and regime in Establishment No. 3 has not changed in 2020. Prisoners still spend 23 hours in their cells without individual sentence planning or any kind of rehabilitation activities.
Despite the relatively small contingent of inmates in the facility, cases of self-harm, hunger, or assault on prison officers are common. In addition, the number of applications sent from Establishment No. 3 to the Public Defender's Office is higher. More applications per prisoner are received from Establishment No. 3 compared to other facilities. In two of the applications received in the first half of 2020, convicts referred to physical violence, which is being investigated by the State Inspector's Office, while in ten cases, convicts referred to psychological violence.
Due to the introduction of restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the volume of medical services has been significantly limited, in particular, the visits of specialists and the implementation of planned medical referrals in civil sector have been suspended, which may hinder the timely delivery of medical services. Some of the convicts placed in the facility are receiving psychotropic drugs. Psychiatrist’s visits have been restricted after the visits of specialists was banned; therefore, the suicide prevention programme has been suspended in the establishment. In the absence of psycho-social support services or other resources to manage the situation in the facility, the administration often uses methods of isolation, such as placing a prisoner in the de-escalation room, the conditions of which further aggravate the psycho-emotional state of prisoners. Due to the above, the Public Defender has been assessing the placement of prisoners in the de-escalation room as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for years.
The report drawn up as a result of the monitoring visit paid on July 12-13, 2020 was sent to the Director General of the Special Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia on November 5, 2020, who was requested to provide information on the consideration and implementation of the recommendations offered in the report. It is unfortunate that the head of the Special Penitentiary Service has not yet submitted his position on the above report. Based on the above, the Public Defender calls on the sState to respond in a timely manner.