Similar to the Action Plan for 2016-17, again the following goals are the priorities of Chapter 4: protection of human rights in the penitentiary system in accordance with international standards and best practices (Goal 4.1), improvement of the legal status of vulnerable groups (Goal 4.2), promotion of resocialisation and rehabilitation of remand and convicted prisoners (Goal 4.3) and former offenders (Goal 4.4). Furthermore, the new Action Plan comprises the key component of introduction of human rights based approaches in the management of the penitentiary system (Goal 4.5).
By the end of 2018, the quality of fulfilment of the objectives sought and activities planned in terms of improving the legal status of prisoners is not quite satisfactory. The introduction of human rights based approaches in the management of the penitentiary system and developing the penitentiary system operating in compliance with international standards remain prospects for the future because of the following challenges: there is an informal prison rule based on the criminal underworld in the penitentiary system thus posing a serious challenge in terms of the security of prisoners and personnel, non-discrimination and realisation of the equality principles; and activities of resocialisation and rehabilitation still are not tailored to the actual needs of offenders.
In the reporting period, there were no legislative changes aimed at improving the legal status of prisoners. Similar to the previous years, overcrowding remains to be a challenge in penitentiary establishments. Apart from the problem regarding placing prisoners in penitentiary establishments over the statutory limits, the problem of providing each prisoner with a minimum living space of 4 m2 remains problematic. This has been recommended by the CPT and the Public Defender of Georgia for years. In the 2018 report, the Public Defender still refers to the shortcomings of the parole mechanism. The solution of this problem is related to the prevention of overcrowding.
Numerous infrastructural improvements in penitentiary establishments, including closing down the buildings of penitentiary establishments nos. 7 and 12 notorious for their dire material conditions are commendable. These establishments were relocated to other buildings, which comply with established standards. In the reporting period, prisoners were provided with the appropriate furniture and items of personal hygiene in practically all establishments. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that, according to the reports of the monitoring bodies, some penitentiary establishments still fail to comply with the duty of ensuring adequate material conditions.
In 2018, there were no considerable changes in terms of improving the provision of medical services to remand and convicted prisoners, including the management, accessibility and quality of mental and preventive healthcare services.
Based on the reports presented by the monitoring bodies, in general, accessibility of healthcare services is improved both within and outside penitentiary establishments. The positive trends in the management and accessibility of hepatitis C and tuberculosis programmes are maintained in terms of both prevention (screening) and therapeutic activities.
In the reporting period, the following issues remained to be challenging: anonymity/confidentiality of medical services; waiting period for consultation services and treatment; and low awareness among prisoners about preventive health care.
In 2018, there was an increase in the number of identified psychiatric and behavioural disorders. The programmes existing in this regard are still unable to ensure facilitating and improving prisoners’ mental health. In the reporting period, no strategic document on mental health care was elaborated or approved that would ensure consistent and strategic approaches to eradicate the existing challenges.
Due to the limited accessibility of information, it was impossible to assess the effectiveness of the suicide prevention programme. Despite the positive assessment of the content of the existing suicide prevention programmes/activities, it is difficult to identify its impact on the prisoners at risk of suicide.
No changes have been made to improve the substitution treatment programmes for substance-dependant prisoners. The existing services are insufficient and unable to provide psycho-rehabilitation services for prisoners.
In terms of improving the rights of vulnerable prisoners, there were no particular improvements in the reporting period. Firstly, it should be pointed out that the Action Plan itself is deficient in this regard, as it only mentions women, juveniles and persons with disabilities in the category of vulnerable prisoners. Therefore, there is no emphasis on important groups such as LGBTI+, religious and ethnic minorities, etc.
As regards persons with disabilities (PWDs), there is no considerable improvement in this regard, in the reporting period. The majority of penitentiary establishments are still not accommodated to the needs of persons with disabilities. The statistical reports of the Special Penitentiary Service provide no information about psychosocial programmes tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities.
In the reporting period, number of activities were implemented in terms of prisoners’ resocialisation and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the present programmes remain unable to respond to the existing needs and similar to the previous years, only a small part of prison population is involved in them.
A rather high number of remand and convicted prisoners receiving higher education is commendable. In this regard, the following activities are noteworthy: the concepts and study programmes developed – with the participation of experts of the EU-funded Penitentiary and Probation Support Project (EU4Justice) – in the fields of resocialisation and rehabilitation and modern methods of prison management and vocational retraining of senior and middle level officers, social workers and psychologists of the penitentiary system. In case of adequate implementation of these components and full use of the vocational potential of the retrained personnel, it will be possible to solve the serious problems in terms of resocialisation and rehabilitation in future years.