Reforms in the penitentiary system: No more torture and epidemic in Georgian jails

The core challenge for the new Georgian Government since October 2012 has been the legacy of politicised, repressive criminal justice system and an extremely poor human rights record it inherited. Systemic disregard of human rights by the state had a devastating effect on the penitentiary system.

The policy embraced by the Government is aimed at ensuring maximum protection of the rights of inmates, eradicate torture and inhuman treatment, improve imprisonment conditions and promote re-socialization/rehabilitation.

Both internal and external monitoring mechanisms have been strengthened and improved. The Public Defender and the members of the National Prevention Mechanism have unimpeded access to the penitentiary establishments and are provided with the right to take photos of inmates and their detention conditions to document potential abuses. The new rules on prisoners’ registration and photographing are adopted in line with the recommendations of Istanbul protocol.

The intensive efforts are taken to provide decent living conditions in the penitentiary system; some of the facilities are closed down due to inappropriate conditions; minimum living space per prisoner increased from 2 to 4 square meters. As a result of improved early conditional release mechanisms and the amendments introduced to the relevant legislation, the prison population reduced from 24 114 (as of December 2011) to 9 500.

Introduction of individual sentence planning and risk assessment mechanisms were main novelties in the basic reforms to ensure public safety, promote positive changes amongst the convicted inmates, assist inmates in the process of preparation for release and ultimately reduce the risk of reoffending.

The penitentiary healthcare service has significantly improved resulting in substantial decrease of Prison Mortality Rate. State programs for treatment of Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis are fully functioning; suicide prevention program is implemented in all penitentiary establishments.

The overall objective of the penitentiary system is to keep inmates physically and mentally in good state of health through engaging them in different activities. This policy is pursued to promote their readiness to get back to normal life with less risk of reoffending. Currently penitentiary system offers a wide range of VET programs, psycho-social therapy, general, and higher education through distance learning, also various employment opportunities.

Moreover, the platform – helps inmates to sell their handmade items online and get income directly to their bank accounts. Additionally, inmates in the release preparation establishment are granted the right to leave the facility during weekends and weekdays for work and/or study purpose.

 Juvenile justice system has significantly improved after the adoption of the new Juvenile Justice Code. As a result, imprisonment of ‘children in conflict with the law’ has been extremely reduced. A new type of alternative non-custodial sentence “house arrest” has been enacted. Since January 1, 2018 the Ministry expanded the application of “house arrest” for adult convicts as well.

 The Government of Georgia is committed to maintain this positive trend in human rights protection and now strives to become an exemplary for other nations.