Following the publication of Public Defender’s special report on informal governance and criminal subculture in prisons, it has become not only more difficult but also dangerous for representatives of the Public Defender’s Office to carry out visits and monitoring in penitentiary establishments.
According to Nino Lomjaria, in recent months, a certain group of prisoners managed by the administration of the establishments and the so-called “prison watchers” have been systematically carrying out verbal attacks, threats and aggression against representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office.
“As representatives of the Public Defender, during their visits to prisons, face real threats from “informal governors” supported by prison administrations, the Public Defender is considering the possibility of conducting preventive monitoring visits only under additional security measures, which would naturally impede the protection of prisoners’ rights effectively. Naturally, the Office will continue to hold individual meetings with prisoners.
We identify cases of alleged violence against prisoners and apply to the investigative agencies to conduct an effective investigation, and then we monitor the cases and the safety of the prisoners;
We assist prisoners in receiving medical services delayed for months or years;
We talk about the illegal and inhuman treatment of prisoners in de-escalation rooms for weeks, as well as the ill-treatment of prisoners with mental health problems;
We talk about shortcomings of the parole system, the inconsistency and non-substantiation of the decisions made by the commission, the terms calculated to the detriment of prisoners;
We help prisoners reach the relevant agencies, we identify cases when the facilities "lose" prisoners’ letters, we help prisoners get back the unjustly confiscated items;
We reveal illegal cases of the imposition of administrative fines, while the most vulnerable categories in the penitentiary system, who, for example, are afraid of being illtreated because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, are able to communicate with the outside world only through the visits of the Public Defender’s representatives.
Given all this, we call on: the Government to take immediate measures to change the model of managing the criminal subculture in prisons; the Minister of Justice to immediately raise the issue of liability of the Director General of the Penitentiary Service, as well as directors of the relevant penitentiary establishments; the Parliament to study the illegal model of management of semi-open establishments, by using parliamentary oversight mechanisms, in order to enable all prisoners to address the relevant agency or organization relating to their problems and rights violations”, - reads the statement.