Public Defender’s Statement on New Penal Code

The Public Defender of Georgia welcomes the adoption of the new penal code. Although there is still room for improvements in the code, it is an important step towards better protection of prisoners' rights.

It is significant that in the process of drafting the code, the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia submitted its opinions to the Ministry of Justice and the Special Penitentiary Service of Georgia. A working meeting was also held, and later the Public Defender addressed the Parliament of Georgia with a legislative proposal and submitted relevant recommendations.

It is gratifying that a number of recommendations of the Public Defender have been implemented and reflected in the new code. In particular, as a result of the Public Defender's recommendations:

  1. In case of a disciplinary violation by a prisoner, the director of the facility is obliged to archive and keep the video recording of the fact, as a neutral proof of the disciplinary violation committed by the prisoner;
  2. Inmates of high-risk prison have been granted the right to enjoy a video meeting;
  3. The Penitentiary Service has been obliged to provide prisoners with a minimum living space of at least 4 square meters;
  4. Convicts, on the basis of written request, may change: a short visit - into a phone conversation or a video meeting; A long visit - into a short visit, video meeting or phone conversation; Family visit - into a short visit, video meeting or phone conversation.

Nevertheless, unfortunately, the code does not reflect the position of the Public Defender in relation to other equally important issues, for example:

  • No types of disciplinary violations of prisoners (less serious violation, serious violation and particularly serious violation) or appropriate punishments for each type of violation (gradation of severity of punishment) have been defined;
  • Restrictions on the contact with the outside world, as a disciplinary penalty, have not been canceled, except in cases where such contact is related to a crime;
  • Prosecutors/investigators still have the option to restrict the defendants' right to telephone conversations, which inter alia applies to cases of communication with a lawyer;
  • The number of visits and phone calls for convicts placed in high-risk and closed facilities has not increased; The number of short and long visits has not increased for life-sentenced prisoners;
  • The deadline for applying to the court for the conditional release of life-sentenced prisoners has not been shortened;
  • In contrast to the current edition of the code, a convict placed in a special risk institution is restricted from the right to temporarily leave the institution in the event of the death of a close relative.

The Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, like in the past years, will continue to actively supervise the protection of the rights of persons placed in penitentiary institutions. In addition, the Office will continue to work to improve the rights situation of accused and convicted persons, to prepare recommendations and proposals in order to eliminate gaps in legislation and practice, and to advocate for their implementation.

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