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New penal code to meet European standards?

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, January 28
Georgia is going to allow pepper spray, dogs, batons, as well as calming chairs in prisons. The amendment to the Imprisonment Code was prepared and presented to the parliament by the Ministry of Corrections.

The draft also allows using calming beds, rubber batons, tear gas, non-lethal weapons, acoustic means, light-sound equipment for psychological impact, sound equipment, and water cannons in order to calm inmates. According to the current law, in the case a prisoner poses a danger, they may be handcuffed or placed in a restraining jacket.

This amendment became highly criticized by the opposition and human rights defenders.

The first deputy Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Grigol Giorgadze, explained that only internationally approved special equipment will be used inside the facilities and the amendment was prepared only after the prior consultations with human rights watchdogs and the Public Defender’s office. Giorgadze promises that prison staff will never be able to misinterpret the law and misuse the equipment. Also, prison system reform offers a new classification of prisoners.

"The important part of the reform is that the prisoners will be classified into low risk and high risk groups. Those from the low risk group will be placed in a separate prison, which will soon be opened in Rustavi,” Giorgadze said. He also explained that prisoners that belong to high risk groups, tend not to obey the rules, and try to strengthen their criminal values or impose it on others, will be placed in a facility of strict regime, planned to be built in Laituri and Orlkhevi.

Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Sozar Subari, says the amended Code on Imprisonment, will fully meet European Union and EU standards.

“Before presenting the draft to government and parliament, we had consultations with the Council of Europe, experts, NGOs and the public defender’s office on daily basis. Their remarks were considered,” Subari said.

However, Georgian Ombudsman, Ucha Nanuashvili is not confident about the standards of the amended law and says his office has a slightly different view on the issues.

“The issues is a bit alarming, our position is different from the ministry’s position, especially on making pepper sprays legal (to be used in detention facilities). We believe the ministry will have to put some more efforts and prove to society that there is an actual need to use the new methods in prisons,” Nanaushvili said.

The draft also proposes to increase the living space of inmates and sets the minimum at 2 square-meters living space per inmate, at the semi-open type of prison and at least 2.5 square-meters at indoor facilities. At the medical facility living space should be at least 3 square meters and at juvenile facilities 2.5.

Inmates shall also be offered longer time for visits, female inmates will have a chance to have family visits. Also the list of the persons who are allowed to meet a prisoner will be extended and the person with whom the prisoner shares a child, step-mother, step-father and parents of the wife or husband will be added to the list.

In the case the draft is approved by the parliament, inmates will be offered to do agricultural work and be paid for it.