Public Defender’s Proposal concerning the Bill of Amendments to the Imprisonment Code and Subsequent Legislative Changes

The Public Defender welcomes the institutional reform planned in the prison system and praises its significant aspects, such as: creation of a facility for preparation for release, opportunities for convicts placed in the low-risk prison facility to get higher education, reduction of the term of administrative detention, introduction of additional allowances for female prisoners, etc. The Public Defender hopes that these changes will help to solve problems in the penitentiary system. However, it should be noted that some changes envisaged in the legislative package needs to be revised.

In particular, the changes allow electronic surveillance of short and video meetings between prisoners and their visitors, while the applicable law allows only visual control of such meetings. The Public Defender considers that no audio surveillance or recording should be carried out during short or video meetings, except for the cases when this is necessary for the investigation.

The proposed amendments deprive the inmates under disciplinary penalty of the right to enjoy video or long meetings with visitors during the entire term of the penalty, which in some cases lasts a year. This practice existed in the penitentiary system earlier too. The Public Defender believes that this form of restriction on the prisoners’ contact with the outside world, as the outcome of the disciplinary penalty, is unjustified, as it is in conflict with the basic principle, according to which, prisoners’ contact with the outside world should be encouraged as much as possible.

According to the changes, only the court will be authorized to release a convict before the scheduled time in case of illness; the court, during making a decision on the release, will take into account not only illness but other issues as well, such as personality of the convict, his/her criminal record, etc. The Public Defender considers that it should be necessarily recorded in the legislative package that the court should take into account the availability of adequate medical care and treatment for a convict in prison.

According to the changes, the period of administrative detention (the proposed bill uses the term “disciplinary prison”) will be reduced. The Public Defender welcomes the reduction of the period of administrative detention, though he believes that the administrative (disciplinary) detention, as a form of punishment, should be abolished, or at least its term should be reduced to 15 days, while the prisoner should be allowed to fully enjoy the procedural safeguards applied in the criminal process.

The Public Defender negatively assesses the ban on correspondence between defendants/convicts in the penitentiary institutions, the restriction on the convict’s right to participate in the educational process during the period of his/her disciplinary punishment and the new rule of revision of life imprisonment. In addition, the Public Defender considers that it is necessary to bring the norm pertaining to the living space of an inmate in compliance with the minimum standards strictly defined by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

The Public Defender calls on the Parliament to take account the abovementioned and bring the legislative package in line with the international human rights standards and expresses his readiness to actively participate in the process.

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