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N8 prison in Gldani topic of concern over treatment of prisoners

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 10
The public defender’s office released the outcome of an unscheduled monitoring visit carried out at the N8 prison in Gldani on July 9. The monitoring process was preceded by “dangerous” information spread by media outlets and various NGOs, stating that a mass strike in the prison was imminent.

The public defender stated that all prison accommodations had been monitored and nearly 400 prisoners had been questioned.

“The prisoners denied planning any kind of strike within the prison or the arrival of special units. They had no signs of physical violation on the body,” the public defender’s office stated.

Despite the denial, the monitoring revealed several problems within the prison. Based on the report, many prisoners have been awaiting transfer to other prisons for a long time, and without being provided a firm timetable for their transfer. The prisoners are given 15-20 minutes for walking, when through the law one hour is allocated for the activity. In addition, the prison shop lacks healthy products, fruits and vegetables, and inmates are permitted only abbreviated phone privileges twice per month.

A recent Ombudsman report noted that “prisoners have to whisper in cells, as speaking above a whisper is considered to be breaking the rules of the prison and will result in punishment for those who break this rule. There are also strict sleeping rules and specified time for which prisoners are permitted to sleep or lie on their beds. After 22:00, saying hello to a familiar prisoner is a punishable action. Newspapers are also unavailable to prisoners,” the Ombudsman said.

Quarantine cells were also a big focus of the Ombudsman. Based on the report, there are 8 such cells in the prison, each of them targeted for 8 prisoners. There are mattresses in the cells without blankets.

As for the positive aspects, the public defender stated that based on prisoners responses, the prison staff treats them with attention– there is a doctor, a pharmacy and other available medical services.

Any kind of strike was categorically denied by the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance as soon as the information began circulating in the media the ministry has called on media outlets to refrain from disseminating false information and to have more consideration and respect for the family members of the prisoners.

Opposition members state that a “prisoner’s life is not protected in Georgia.” According to a representative from the Georgian Dream, Sozar Subari, all responsible figures, including Minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, must answer all those illegalities that exist in the prison.

Patriarch Ilia II touched upon this issue as well and has appealed to the prison’s chairs to provide more respect to prisoners. “It has been voiced that the prisoners are being treated in a bad manner. No one should treat prisoners poorly as no one knows what might happen in the future and no one is guaranteed that they themselves might one day find themselves in such a situation. That is why I appeal to the heads of prisons to express love and respect towards the prisoners as one day, those people will come back to their families,” the Patriarch declared.