Report on Impact of Covid 19 on Health and Other Rights of Prisoners and Staff of Penitentiary System
On May 11, 2022, the Public Defender of Georgia and Prevention for Progress, a non-governmental organization, presented a joint report “Impact of Covid 19 on the Health and Other Rights of Prisoners and Staff of the Penitentiary System." The study assesses the impact of special measures taken by the Special Penitentiary Service from March 2020 through 2021 on the rights situation of prisoners.
According to the study, the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus had a positive impact on the prevention of Covid 19. The above was also contributed by the allocation of quarantine spaces and isolation of suspicious patients. The importance of mass and regular PCR and rapid antigen testing of the staff and inmates played a key role in the early detection of the disease. According to the interviews with the medical personnel and prisoners, the vaccination process was proceeding at a good pace in the penitentiaries. In addition, compared to a similar study conducted in 2017, the percentage of respondents, who think that food quantity is inadequate, decreased in 2021.
The results of the study show that restrictions were overused during the pandemic period and no appropriate efforts were made to find possible alternative solutions. No appropriate steps were taken by the state institution to reduce the number of prisoners. During the evaluation process, special attention was paid to the medical issues. The study showed that the number of medical personnel decreased, which led to delays in the provision of medical care. Due to delays and reductions in outpatient services, the number of transfers of prisoners to civil sector hospitals increased, as well as the number of cases of emergency transfers to medical facilities. The reduction in the provision of outpatient psychiatric care also had a negative impact on the mental health of inmates, increasing the need for treatment in psychiatric facilities.
The pandemic and the measures taken negatively affected prisoners' contact with the outside world. The study made it clear that the free phone minutes added as compensation during the period of restrictions were not sufficient to counterbalance the restrictions. Prisoners were restricted from contacting lawyers, psychologists and social workers, and they were unable to receive the relevant services. The number of rehabilitation programmes also significantly reduced. The study also showed that the living and working conditions of the employees, who were not allowed to leave the facilities, were difficult.