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Shashkin tells MPs what he did in his previous job

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, December 16
The former Minister of Correction and Legal Assistance Dimitri Shashkin, just appointed the new Minister of Education and Science, addressed a joint sitting of the Committees on Human Rights and Civil Integration and Legal Issues concerning planned and implemented reforms in the Ministry of Probation, Penitentiary and Legal Assistance on December 14.

Shashkin outlined his work during his 10 months as Minister. He said the main priorities of his Ministry had been the maintenance of community protection, bringing the system of correction into line with international norms, a full reform of the system of non-custodial punishment and probation, the widening of the legal assistance service, improving the effectiveness of penitentiary and probation training centres and ensuring transparency. He then enumerated the steps he had taken to fulfil these priorities, drawing particular attention to the successful start of educational reform in the Ministry, under which every juvenile convict now has the opportunity of receiving secondary education and a certificate, something which has come about as the result of close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science. Teachers working with the convicts had been retrained on mandatory courses designed specifically for teaching in prisons.

As a result of the successful implementation of the education reform six juvenile convicts had passed the Unified National Examinations this year. One has been accepted into one of the most popular university faculties, Business and Management. The Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University, Ilia Chavchavadze State University, the Technical University of Georgia and Tavarkiladze Economic Relations and Law University concerning this project. The former Minister stated yesterday that this programme will continue. "This is a very important reform and I am sure it will continue successfully, as it is a very serious step towards creating a normal society and crime prevention,” stated Shashkin.

Shashkin added that among the most significant achievements of the Ministry during his tenure were setting in motion the vocational programme and the signing of the memorandum of cooperation between the Georgian Government and the Georgian Orthodox Church. He said that on the basis of this memorandum convicts now have an opportunity to serve suspended sentences rather than prison terms and spend a certain period in monasteries as rehabilitation. "The Ministry actively collaborates with the Orthodox Church, which is another very important step. The Ministry, with the support of Church representatives, enable the prisoners to alter their former lifestyle positively,” Shashkin said.

While outlining the Ministry’s future plans Dimitri Shashkin stated that some new correctional establishments will be opened next year to improve the prison overcrowding problem. Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration Giorgi Arsenishvili thanked Shashkin for his work and noted that this event was a fine example for everyone. He said that all Ministers should present a full report about their wok to Parliament, even if they had left their posts. "The work of the Ministry of Correction and Legal Assistance was dynamic. It took a number of new initiatives and most of them we fulfilled. It‘s quite obvious that Dimitri Shashkin is a high level manager, he does everything well, but we must outline that too many problems still exist in penitentiary healthcare and we express the hope that in the nearest future this problem will be regulated by the Ministry.”

Opposition members also commented on Shashkin’s achievemts, most saying that Shashkin’s work and reforms in the Ministry of Probation, Penitentiary and Legal Assistance can be considered positive and successful. Jondi Baghaturia from Georgian Troupe noted that " I cannot say exactly, why he has been moved. Reforms will no longer be undertaken in the Penitentiary system, the Government has stopped this by replacing Shashkin. I consider that Shashkin was more needed in the Penitentiary system.” The Christian Democrats also estimated Shashkin's reforms and work at the Ministry of Probation, Penitentiary and Legal Assistance positively.