Georgia: The Minister of Justice Rati Bregadze appeared in the Parliament by interpellation and answered the question of the faction “United National Movement” – United Opposition “Power in Unity”, which concerned the measures taken to protect the rights of accused (convicts) in the Special Penitentiary Service and their compliance with the standards established by the legislation of Georgia and international agreements.
The Minister of Justice noted that one of the major achievements in the penitentiary system is that once and for all, the systemic problem of torture, inhuman treatment and punishment is finally a thing of the past. According to Rati Bregadze, today there are 10,525 places in penitentiary institutions corresponding to the standard, where 9430 convicts are accommodated and, accordingly, all the standards are observed.
“48 menus of the new standard, seasonal and also adapted to the health condition were developed for prisoners. Special attention is paid to the observance of sanitary-hygienic conditions, primary care teams operate in all institutions and in 2021, for example, 5502 prisoners were transferred to the civil sector hospital. There are many state health programs in the penitentiary system,” said the Minister of Justice.
According to Rati Bregadze, the Penitentiary Service had significant success in fighting the pandemic, namely: as of December 31, 2021, 94% of the system staff and 84% of convicts and defendants had been vaccinated.
Speaking about procedural rights, the Minister noted that as a result of changes in human rights, the limits of telephone conversations held by prisoners do not apply if the Public Defender, the Special Investigation Service and the General Inspection of the Ministry of Justice are contacted and all calls are reimbursed by the state.
“This is a clear proof that the state is primarily interested in the protection of human rights. “We have a new initiative, as a result of which the prisoner will be able to contact the Bar Association and the Legal Aid Service without any restrictions,” Rati Bregadze said.
He said that local councils had made 829 positive decisions on parole in 2021, which is related to humane approaches and it is all directly related to human rights. According to Rati Bregadze, the Ministry of Justice, together with the Ministry of Education, is launching a project “Digital University”, as a result of which convicts and defendants will have the opportunity to complete both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in distance education at higher education institutions accredited in Georgia, which will facilitate their resocialization, as well as the full realization of the right to education.
The Minister of Justice also spoke about the employment programs of convicts and defendants, the sports management strategy approved in the penitentiary system, the measures planned to meet the needs of prisoners with disabilities, the involvement of convicts in social activities and rehabilitation programs, and infrastructure. After Rati Bregadze’s speech, a debate was held at the plenary session, which was attended by factional members of parliament, political groups, representatives of the parliamentary opposition and the majority factions.