Prisoners Left Without Parcels or Visitors
Prisoners Left Without Parcels or Visitors
NGOs advise the government to protect human rights and demand amendments to legislation. Banning prolonged visits and parcels in the prisons only complicates the situation. Regarding the problem, the NGO ‘Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights’ gave the government recommendations and asked that they be implemented.
Nana Kakabadze, the head of Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, states that the number of the prisoners doubled within 2 years and has nearly tripled. In 2004, there were 5,900 prisoners in Georgia, however, today the number of prisoners has reached 13,000. Despite a prominent increase in prisoner numbers, the prisons budget remains the same, forcing the prisoners to live in hunger and unbearable conditions.
According to Kakabadze, amendments made to legislation, since the Rose Revolution, have only put prisoners in a worse condition. She named some of them:
1. A new law on imprisonment forbids prisoners from receiving parcels. The majority of the prisons (Kutaisi Prison #2, Rustavi Prison #6, and Tbilisi Prison # 7) allow only some fruit and juice into the prison. Because of a lack of funds and the small amount of money that is allotted from the budget for feeding prisoners, they depend on parcels from relatives and family members. Therefore, the new laws leave them without any food. Although the law gives permission to buy some products, using the limited amount of money they have, at special shops in reality these kinds of shops do not exist.
2. Extended visits have been cancelled. During an extended visit, a prisoner had the right to live in a special room with a family member for 3 days. It helped the prisoner to keep in touch with their family and to reintegrate with society.
3. The number of short visits has also been decreased and ‘encouragement’ visits have been cancelled (Article 29). The old law permitted 5 short visits and 4 visits with a 3-hour limit under normal prison conditions. The current law allows only 2 short visits under normal prison conditions and 1 visit under restricted prison conditions. Women inmates have the right to 3 visits with a 3 hour limit. Juveniles also have been limited in the number of visits they can get.
4. A prisoner is not permitted to meet persons who are not his/her family members such as journalists or human rights defenders.
5. Instead of a judge, it is now the Head of the Penitentiary Department who is empowered to define or change a prison regime for a prisoner (The law on imprisonment, Article 19).
NGOs believe that the changes aim to make acts within Penitentiary system non-transparent and call upon the government for cooperation in implementing NGO recommendations. They claim that, taking into account the Penitentiary Department officials’ ill-treatment of prisoners, the situation is catastrophic.
NGOs also claim that as a result of all these changes there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths, including suicides. They conclude that without intense participation from international organizations and civil society, the chaotic atmosphere in the prisons will not be improved.
The families of prisoners protest at the banning of parcels. They queue the whole day in front of the prisons in the hope of delivering parcels to their incarcerated loved ones who complain they are on the verge of starvation in prison. All the families’ efforts however are in vain.
The Ministry of Justice explains that the parcels are a method of getting drugs to the inmates, which is why they banned them.
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