Representative of Public Defender of Georgia Shares Georgia’s Experience in Combating Prison Overcrowding with CAT

On August 7-8, 2017, the international non-governmental organization Penal Reform International organized a working meeting with the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), which aimed to discuss the evaluation methodology of prison overcrowding by the Committee. The meeting was attended by Nika Kvaratskhelia, Head of the Department of Prevention and Monitoring of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, who spoke about the issue of prison overcrowding, which has been a problem in Georgia for years. He emphasized that overcrowding was caused by strict criminal policy and shortcomings in criminal justice.

Nika Kvaratskhelia reminded the Committee that as of January 2012 the number of prisoners in Georgia was 24 000, which drastically reduced as a result of the amnesty declared in December 2012. He underlined the fact that in the same period the revision of the criminal policy was started, which would likely reduce the number of prisoners in the end.

At present there are approximately 9 500 inmates in penitentiary establishments. According to the Public Defender of Georgia, the number of prisoners is still high per capita and it is essential to liberalize the criminal policy and actively use alternatives to detention.

It was also noted in the report that while assessing the issue of prison overcrowding, special attention must be given to the fact how well the penitentiary system can provide each prisoner with appropriate services, as re-socialization is the cornerstone of the execution of penalties.

An interesting discussion was held between the participants during the working meeting. Importance of respect for human dignity and necessity for developing more flexible definition of overcrowding as well as adequate methodology for its assessment were emphasized. Jens Modvig, Chairperson of the UN Committee against Torture, thanked the reporters for introducing interesting opinions and said that the Committee would continue to work on the issue of assessment of overcrowding and cooperate with international regulatory bodies, national human rights institutions, national preventive mechanisms and non-governmental organizations in the future too.

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