Public Defender’s Statement on Prisoners’ Death in Establishment No. 17

The Public Defender offers her sympathy to the family members and relatives of the prisoners who died during the fire in Penitentiary Establishment No. 17 on October 14. We offer our condolences to each prisoner and prison staff.

The Public Defender and her representatives were in Penitentiary Establishment No. 17 throughout the day. We saw that two more prisoners injured during the fire were provided with medical assistance. We talked to prisoners and representatives of the administration, we visited the incident site (the kitchen and dining building).

During the day, prisoners were able to have telephone communication with family members, were provided with food, electricity supply was fully restored to almost the entire facility.

The information we obtained made it clear that there are likely no fire safety rules or clear instructions for responding to critical situation in the penitentiary facilities. In the event of fire outbreak, there is a high risk of the fire further spreading all around the penitentiary facilities and damaging the lives and health of prisoners. According to the information received, the facility does not carry out planned or unplanned monitoring of the quality of fire safety. No fire safety requirements are likely taken into account when selecting construction materials for prison buildings (e.g. kitchen, warehouses).

It is essential for the penitentiary facilities to have an effective plan for the rapid evacuation of prisoners in the event of fire or smoke spread in prisoners’ residential building. At the same time, in the event of fire breakout in a building close to a residential building, there should be clear instructions for protecting inmates placed in the residential building from smoke intoxication.

It is noteworthy that the Public Defender has been assessing the infrastructure of Penitentiary Establishment No. 17 as not safe for years, including in terms of fire safety.

The Public Defender’s Office will study in detail the existence and effectiveness of fire safety protocols in the penitentiary facilities. The Office will also closely monitor the investigation process in the State Inspector's Office.

The Public Defender also calls on the Ministry of Justice and the Special Penitentiary Service to proactively and fully inform the public about cases of similar importance.

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