“Heat” in Prison-Serving a Term in the Queue to Lavatory
Chechen Vahid Albastov has been in Pretrial Detention Setting for four months already for illegal crossing of border. Four-month-stay in prison has so much changed the prisoner that his lawyer, Nino Andriashvili, who represents Human Rights Center (HRIDC), could not recognize the client.
“He was healthy person and now when I looked at his ears I thought he was dead. He is thin and pale. Vahid Albastov complains that there is lot of parasites in the prison. His hands are swollen but nobody gives him medicine. He said that there are seventy people in his cell and they are sleeping in turn. The food is so terrible that he takes only bread from daily ration. He has no relatives in Georgia and other prisoners are supposed to give something from their food they receive from families,” said Nino Andriashvili.
A lot of prisoners complain about unbearable situation in prison like Albastov. Finally, on July 17 part of Rustavi Jail # 2 inmates applied to the Public Defender for help. The appeal stated that they do not know jail routine; only expensive cigarettes are sold at jail shop and they cannot enjoy their right to walking. They also complained about horrible sanitary situation in prison; only once in two or three weeks they are taken to bathroom; there is only one window for parcels in the jail and their relatives have to stand in queues for several days. Prisoners say that there is no medical service and medicines in the detention setting. Prisoners with infectious disease are placed together with healthy people.
Representatives of Public Defender handed out jail routines to prisoners but improvement of the situation in the custody is only within Jail Administration’s competence. The only thing the Ombudsman can do in similar situation is sending recommendation to Bacho Akhalaia, the Chairman of the Penitentiary Department and to Lasha Bregvadze, Director of the Rustavi Jail #2.
Giga Giorgadze, Deputy Public Defender, said that, as a rule, only small part of recommendations is followed. For example, in Jail # 7 the administration fixed bell according to the recommendation. However, members of Ombudsman’s monitoring group could not enter the cell because the inmates could not open the door of the overcrowded cell. Giorgadze said that there are 70-80 people in the cell for fourteen people. In the heat of summer you will not resolve the problem even if you place several ventilators in the cell.
The last recommendation of Public Defender is not very much different from previous ones. “Prisoners should enjoy their right to medical service; those inmates, whom court has not sent to jails, must be placed in other detention settings; inmates who have right to have TV sets in their cells; one more window for parcels must be opened in the custody…”
Representatives of non-governmental organizations, who work on prisoners issues, state that 18 500 prisoners (according to current official statistics) have never been in Georgian prisons before. Nana Kakabadze, the head of “Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights” recalls the conclusions of the experts from the Council of Europe that was prepared when Johni Khetsuriani was Minister of Justice late in 1990s. It stated that according to Georgian population the total amount of prisoners should not exceed 5-6 thousand people. At that time there were seven thousand inmates in Georgian custodies.
“During Soviet Union Georgian prisons were built to place only 11 thousand people. The problem of double number of inmates is aggravated by unbearable conditions in custodies. There is terrible unsanitary in detention settings. What kind of argument it is when they state that they cannot find enough room for prisoners in jails. Prison administrations should refuse to accept extra prisoners. When bus is overcrowded people cannot get on it.”
“Now they use imprisonment for every kind crime. It is not proper image for democratic country. Only in extreme situations they should apply to pretrial detention,” said Kakabadze and recalls 1983-85 when she was a political prisoner. She said there was much better situation in prisons then.
“There are 7 000 beds in Georgian prisons in total. There are 18 500 prisoners in Georgia. Readers should make conclusions about the fact. In jails for both women and juveniles, because of terrible heat, inmates sleep outside. Some of them are sleeping under trees; others are sleeping in the yard. In women’s jail the problem for lavatory is unsettled. Prisoners stand in queues to toilet early in the morning and only in the evening they can get in. They are joking that they are serving their terms in the queues to lavatory. Open jails have similar situation but as for closed ones it is impossible to stay there. In Rustavi Jail there is one more problem regarding taking a bath. According to our information, in Jail # 7 they use technical water that causes skin disease. There is terrible deficit of drinking water. Families of prisoners have to buy water in supermarkets that must be closed by all means. For example they are “Geva” and some other similar productions that are not very cheap at all. Similar situation is in Kutaisi. They are urging for help because they are thirsty.”
“There is a new problem in prisons, they opened shops there and everything costs too expensive there. The difference between prices at shop and at market is one lari or one lari and half. Food for prisoners is one of the biggest problems; it is dangerous for their health. It is not necessary to torture a person by beating. Serving your term in similar situation is also a torture,” it is Nana Kakabadze’s estimation about the situation in prisons. However, she, like other human rights defenders, has not been allowed to enter the prison for a long time already.
One of prisoner women said, whose name should be kept anonymous, said that there is a terrible situation in their jail. However in comparison to closed prisons their custody might look like a heaven. She also said that a new building is under construction close their jail where women will be placed. “It will be relief for us but now it is so hot that we cannot spend nights even in barracks. The biggest problem is toilet. There are only four of them and inmates are four times hundred…”
Manana Kobakhidze, chairwoman of the “Article 42” also confirms that there is lack of air in prisons. Particularly difficult is the situation in Ortachala Detention Setting where detainees are placed for pre-trial imprisonment. Kobakhidze said that one of the most urgent unsettled problems is sick detainees who cannot be taken to jail hospitals on time. She mentioned the example of Fridon Kuprashvili.
“The person has fourth stage of cancer. (By the way he was healthy when first entered the jail and got ill because of unbearable conditions). We demanded to take him to jail hospital during two months in vain. We have also appealed to the court to release him from prison but they only postponed his penalty.”
“Prisoner Miminoshvili needs immediate operation on heart. We hardly managed to take to him to hospital. They were to make an operation on him within a month but the time expired on July 9 and we have not received any reply what Penitentiary Department is going to do regarding the fact.”
“Consequently we applied to European Court and Penitentiary Department should have replied to their request before July 30 but they did not do it either.”
“Not only in prison but even in jail hospital inmates cannot go into the yard. They can leave building only in the evening for some time. You should see prison in Zugdidi. They are washing their things in cells and then dry them there too. So there is terrible smell in cells. Lavatories are not separated properly so in fact they are eating close to toilet. How can we demand protection of rights when there are so many problems in this system?” stated Manana Kobakhidze.
Everybody is on holiday at Penitentiary Department. So it is completely impossible to interview officials from the department.
Salome Makharadze, the head of the Public Relation Office within the Penitentiary Department, said that until construction of new prisons or reconstruction of old ones finish the problem will remain unsettled.
‘There are some problems in Jail # 5 but we cannot resolve them yet. A new prison is being under construction in Gldani District in Tbilisi. Construction works are going on in Rustavi Jail #6 too- there will be one large building which will place 700-1000 people. New buildings are being built in Ksani Custody. A new building will be built in Women’s Jail which will place 200-300 women. In Zugdidi we have to build a new prison; in Batumi we have repaired the old one; however, we are going to build a new too. By the end of 2008 the construction process should be finished and I hope that the problem will be finally resolved,” Salome Makharadze explained why white linen is forbidden in jails. She said that several times they found drug in them. As for colored linen supply, Makharadze said that administration of Jail # 5 has not regulated the process so far. However, according to schedule the linen should be changed once in two weeks.
As for Rustavi Jail, administration stated that although there is only one window for parcels, the packages are checked on several tables. There are three therapists and one surgeon in Rustavi Jail # 2. Dentist is usually invited from Jail # 6 and it causes come difficulties while serving all 1 600 prisoners.
In parallel to Public Defender’s recommendations, representatives of opposition parties send memorandum to the government. A week ago representatives of “Sakartevlos Gza” (Georgia’s Way), “Tavisupleba” (Freedom), Republic Party, Labor Party, “Industry Saves Georgia”, National-Democratic Party and political movement “Chven Tviton” (By Ourselves) signed the document in front of the Jail # 5.
Opposition demands to create minimum living conditions in jails, to create hygiene conditions, to provide corresponding assistance for sick prisoners, to restore commission to examine ill prisoners, to check jail hospital within the Rustavi # 2 and to find out the conditions at Rustavi # 6 of the Penitentiary Department.
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