Findings of CPT Report are Identical to Problems Indicated in Public Defender’s Reports
On June 16, 2022, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on its ad hoc visit to Georgia, which along with a number of pressing issues, focuses on signs of informal criminal governance in prisons.
The report is based on the visits paid by the Committee’s delegation to Prisons Nos. 2, 14, 15 and 17 and the contractor clinic of the penitentiary system on May 17-24, 2021. It is noteworthy that the delegation paid its first ad hoc monitoring visit to Georgia after the release of the so-called prison footage in 2012.
According to the Committee, the ad hoc visit was necessitated by specific circumstances, including a report published by the Public Defender in 2020, which addressed informal governance in the penitentiary system and frequent incidents of inter-prisoner violence.
As it is known to the public, the special report published by the Public Defender in 2020 was followed by the denial of the problem by the then Minister of Justice of Georgia, Tea Tsulukiani, and illegal actions. Following such a reaction, monitoring of prisons by the Public Defender and the Special Preventive Group has become not only extremely difficult, but also dangerous.
In its report, the Committee emphasizes the importance and necessity of implementation of visits by the representatives of the Public Defender without impediments.
It should be noted that the ad hoc visit report of the Committee is in full compliance with the findings of the Public Defender's report regarding the informal governance in the penitentiary system. In the Committee's view, all three semi-open prisons (Nos. 14, 15 and 17) are large and the number of staff fails to ensure full control over the establishments. Inter-prisoner violence is frequent. Recidivists and first-time offenders are placed together. Under such circumstances first-time offenders risk much more being “enrolled”, willingly or not, to the informal “crime academy”.
The delegation was concerned to observe obvious signs of the presence of informal prisoner hierarchy, such as typical symbols visibly placed above cell doors and on cell walls. Further, in all prisons there was a clear disparity in conditions between the cells: whilst most of the prisoners had to live in cramped and rather dilapidated accommodation, some of the inmates enjoyed relatively comfortable conditions, refurbished cells (with parquet or tiled floors) and a lot of non-standard equipment.
A number of inmates confirmed to the delegation the existence of the hierarchy and the collection or rather extortion of money for the illegal prisoners’ fund (“obshchak”). It is also noteworthy that many prisoners appeared clearly afraid to speak with the delegation.
According to the Committee, it seemed clear that there was a tacit understanding from both the management and members of the prisoner hierarchy that any “misbehaviour” and any internal conflicts between inmates should first of all be dealt with informally, between prisoners (and without formally involving the administration).
The report reads that resocialization activities are not available to the vast majority of prisoners, and prison conditions are often problematic and inconsistent with international standards. The Committee is also concerned about the injury documentation procedures. The delegation’s forensic medical doctor found in the relevant medical documentation in all three establishments visited evidence of numerous recent traumatic injuries which, due to their type and location, were unlikely to have been sustained accidentally.
The Public Defender’s Office will continue to monitor the penitentiary system for the purpose of the implementation of the recommendations and findings of both the Public Defender and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.