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The Committee visited the following facilities

  • Kyiv pre-trial detention facility (SIZO)
  • Odesa SIZO
  • Lviv Penitentiary Institution (No. 19)
  • Vinnytsia Penitentiary Institution (No. 1)
  • Zhytomyr Penitentiary Institution (No. 8)
  • Starobabanivska Correctional Colony (No. 92) in Uman district
  • Lviv Multi-Purpose Hospital (Prison Hospital)

At the outset, the CPT praised the efforts made by the authorities to reduce the prison population, which had decreased from 51,000 to 44,000 since its previous visit in 2020. However, the incarceration rate remains relatively high (112 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants) compared to the CoE median (104 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants).

The CPT noted with concern the persisting high rate of pre-trial detainees (36%), often held in overcrowded facilities, which could be a cause of ongoing judicial reforms having resulted in increased court backlogs and lengthy proceedings.

The Committee also welcomed the adoption of the Penitentiary Reform Strategy until 2026, which aims to address major shortcomings in the prison system by i.a. addressing prison overcrowding, improving prisoners’ access to healthcare, preventing ill-treatment, increasing the use of non-custodial sanctions and developing the probation system.

The CPT requested in particular updated information on the new standard for prisoners’ personal space foreseen by the Strategy’s Action Plan, which will bring the current standard (2.5 sq. m.) in line with international standards (at least 4 sq. m. per prisoner).

No allegations of ill-treatment by staff were reported to the Committee. However, the Committee expressed its deep concern at the persistence of informal prisoner hierarchy, particularly with regard to the treatment of prisoners at the bottom of the hierarchy, who are exposed to violence, are “rejected by the mainstream prison population in virtually every domain of prison life” (§ 42) and are compelled to carry out unpaid “‘dirty’ work (such as cleaning accommodation areas and toilets and collecting rubbish)” (§ 43).

Referring to recent ECtHR judgments (S.P. and Others v. Russia, no. 36463/11, 2023 and D v. Latvia, no. 76680/17, 2024), the CPT recalled that States’ positive obligations entail that “prison staff must take resolute action to prevent episodes of inter-prisoner intimidation and violence and intervene promptly whenever such acts take place” (44). Noting that the Penitentiary Reform Strategy includes a task aiming at counteracting “counteract the negative influence of the criminal subculture and the informal prison hierarchy” (§ 46), the Committee requested updated information on this issue.

The Committee also reiterated its previous recommendation to put an end to the practice of recruiting inmates as “duty prisoners” (днювальний) to maintain prison order. Not only is this “relinquishment of the responsibility for order and security in prison […] is unacceptable”, it also “exposes weaker prisoners to the risk of abuse and exploitation by their fellow inmate” (§ 47).

The Committee regretted that most of the prisons visited “were located in old buildings which had not undergone any major refurbishment for years, if not decades” (§ 48) and were subject to sporadic renovations only when the management obtained the necessary funds. In particular, the CPT expressed reservations at the system of paid cells enabling remand prisoners to benefit from better detention conditions than the rest of the prison population.

While acknowledging that “in the current exceptional circumstances resulting from the ongoing war, the scheme of paid cells is one of the very few sources of income for prisons which is channelled to address their priority needs, including the renovation of substandard prisoner accommodation” (§ 59), the CPT recalled that this system creates inequality between prisoners.

In view of the poor detention conditions in all the facilities visited, the CPT recommended increasing prisoners’ personal space, ensuring that detention conditions are adequate, ensuring adequate access to natural light and ventilation, and ensuring appropriate bedding and access to shower.

The CPT noted with concern that the situation of adult remand prisoners, who remained confined in their cell up to 23 hours a day, “had not improved since its 2017 periodic visit” (§ 60). It recalled that “as documented by scientific research, placing an adult in conditions akin to solitary confinement may have a negative impact on the person’s mental health, even after a few days” (§ 64, no source mentioned).

In this respect, it welcomed the fact that efforts had been made in respect of juvenile remand prisoners.

While the CPT noted that in the prisons visited lifers were not routinely handcuffed when escorted by staff inside the prison, it observed with concerned that at Kyiv and Zhytomyr prisons, “custodial staff used service dogs inside the prison when escorting such prisoners outside their units (for example, for taking outdoor exercise or visiting the healthcare unit)” (§ 67). After having been informed by the authorities shortly before the publication of the report that such practice had been abolished in these prisons, the CPT requested confirmation that it has also been abolished throughout the entire prison system.

The CPT also noted with concern that despite its previous recommendation, the regime of life-sentenced remains impoverished, as many of them “were locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day and were not offered any organised activities or possibilities to associate with prisoners from other cells” including during outdoor exercise (§ 70).

Noting that the segregation of lifers for the first ten years of their sentence remains the rule, the Committee recalled that the “placement of persons sentenced to life imprisonment should therefore be the result of a comprehensive and ongoing risk and needs assessment, based on an individualised sentence plan, and not merely a result of their sentence (§ 73, see also Section  7 of Recommendation Rec (2003) 23 on the management by prison administrations of life sentence and other long-term prisoners).

The CPT regretted that no progress has been made in the implementation of its previous recommendation to transfer the responsibility for prison healthcare services from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health and recalled that “the active involvement of the Ministry of Health is indispensable for ensuring optimal healthcare for prisoners and observance of the general principle of equivalence of healthcare in prison with that in the outside community” (§ 75).

The committee recommended increasing medical staffing levels in the prisons visited (general practictioners, nurses, psychologists) and improving admission procedures (including to better take into account the specific needs of women) and the procedure for recording injuries.

Furthermore, in spite of its previous recommendations, the CPT noted that “medical confidentiality was far from being respected in most of the prisons visited” (§ 83) as consultations were often carried out in the presence of custodial staff.

With regard to psychiatric care, the CPT called upon the authorities to address the “long-standing problem of lack of licence allowing the use of psychotropic medication in prisons” and to “to ensure that prisoners with mental health disorders who require in-patient psychiatric treatment are always promptly transferred to appropriate hospital facilities” (§ 84).

With regard to prisoners who use drugs, the Committee recommended to allow medical staff working in prison to initiate opioid agonist therapy (currently only available to prisoners who had already been receiving such treatment prior to their imprisonment) and to “develop a comprehensive strategy for the provision of assistance to prisoners with drug-related problems, as part of a wider national drugs strategy” (§ 86).

The Committee made a series of additional recommendations on:

  • Prison staff: increase staffing levels, put an end to the 24-hour shift pattern for custodial staff, introduce dedicated training programmes for prison officers working with women and juveniles, put an end to the practice of carrying truncheons routinely in detention areas;
  • Contact with the outside world: change the restrictive approach to remand prisoners’ contact with the outside world and increase all prisoners’ visit entitlement to one hour per week, ensure that short-term visits take place under open conditions;
  • Discipline and segregation: amend relevant legislations to prohibit the imposition of solitary confinement as a disciplinary sanction for juveniles, in accordance with the European Prison Rules (see Rule 60.6.a), and to ensure that disciplinary confinement does not entail a total prohibition of family contacts, ensure that prisoners subjected to a disciplinary sanction are systematically given a copy of the decision, put an end to the obligation of prison doctors to certify that prisoners are fit to undergo disciplinary punishment.