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New CPT reports on Albania, Georgia, Serbia

3 countries

ALBANIA

In Albania, the CPT visited Tirana’s Prison no. 313 and the prisons in Fier, Peqin and Tepelena, including special care units (“SKV”), intended for prisoners with mental disorders, at Fier and Peqin Prisons.

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The CPT noted that Albania continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates of CoE Member States (with 190 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants) and called on the authorities to take appropriate measures, including the use of noncustodial alternatives to imprisonment and pre-trial detention (which had been on the rise) and “measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into society” (para. 40).

Detention conditions were found to be inadequate in some establishments visited, due to occurrences of overcrowding in pre-trial establishment and older facilities – the CPT went as far as to qualify Tepelena prison as “barely suitable for use as a penitentiary institution” (para. 48).

The CPT regretted that the authorities have not amended the 2017 law create a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole and urged the authorities to revise the legislation in order to make “conditional release available to all life-sentenced prisoners, subject to a review of the threat to society posed by them on the basis of an individual risk assessment” (para. 41).

With regard to detention regimes, the CPT observed that the majority of prisoners in the facilities visited “were not provided with any opportunity for employment or education/vocational training”, a worrying situation, especially for long term and life prisoners “bearing in mind the desocialising effects of long-term imprisonment”. The CPT also urged the authorities to review the high-security regime (“41-bis”), which was found to be akin to solitary confinement, with prisoners concerned being offered “barely any meaningful human contact” (para. 63).

In the area of healthcare, the CPT noted a series of deficiencies related to staff shortages, screening upon admission and medical confidentiality. As regards in particular the situation in SKV, the Committee observed that “almost no therapeutic or occupational activities were organised for patients” (para. 85) and that detention conditions were inadequate.

The CPT also made a number of recommendations on other topics. Concerning discipline it recommended to ensure that prisoners are provided a copy of the disciplinary decision and to review the role of healthcare professionals, who are asked to “to certify that prisoners are fit to undergo punishment [which] is not conducive to the promotion of a positive doctor-patient relationship” (para. 92). Concerning contact with the outside world the CPT recommended to ensure that remand prisoners are entitled to receive family visits as a matter of principle (as they are currently required to obtain prior authorisation by the competent prosecutor to receive a visit, which can take several weeks) and to generalise open visiting arrangements as “short-term visits still as a rule took place under closed conditions, with prisoners and their visitors separated by a glass partition or metal bars” (para. 99).


GEORGIA

In Georgia, the CPT conducted an ad hoc visit to the secure wards of VivaMedi Clinic in Tbilisi, accommodating prisoners receiving inpatient and outpatient treatment.

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Despite the overall acceptable living conditions and quality of treatment received, the CPT concluded that the secure wards “fail to offer a proper therapeutic environment, due to the final word on all essential matters belonging to custodial (and not healthcare) staff and to the total lack of respect to patients’ privacy and medical confidentiality” (para. 23). The CPT recommended reviewing patients’ detention regime, limiting the presence of uniformed and armed custodial officers and reviewing the use of CCTV cameras.

In its conclusion, the CPT found these shortcomings to be related to “the persistent problem of the lack of professional independence of healthcare staff working with prisoners” (para. 25) and called upon the authorities to transfer responsibility for prison healthcare services to the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, which appears to be “both indispensable and overdue” (para. 25).


SERBIA

In Serbia, the CPT conducted an ad hoc visit on the conditions of detention and treatment of remand prisoners in four pre-trial detention facilities (Belgrade District Prison, Novi Sad District Prison, Sremska Mitrovica Penal Correctional Institution (KPZ), Subotica District Prison) and of juvenile offenders in the intensive care unit of the Kruševac Educational and Correctional Institution (VPD).

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With regard to pre-trial facilities, the CPT observed at the outset that there had been a steady rise of the number of pre-trial detainees and a decrease of alternatives to pre-trial detention, which “not surprisingly” (para. 50) impacted on the severe overcrowding of the pre-trial establishment visited. The CPT accordingly called on the authorities to “seriously reflect on the use of pre-trial detention and its role as a measure of last resort” (para. 50). Detention conditions were found to be inadequate and the detention regime to be poor as for most pre-trial detainees “the only out-of-cell activity […] consisted of access to the courtyard for periods ranging from 30 minutes to two hours per day” (para. 59). The CPT also made a series of recommendations in the area of healthcare, staffing, contact with the outside world (on visiting arrangements and access to the telephone), discipline (on the necessity to review the use of prohibition of visits as a judicial offence and to transfer the responsibility for imposing disciplinary sanctions against remand prisoners from the judiciary to the prison authorities) and security measures (on the use of the enhanced supervision regime and strip searches).

With regard to the Kruševac Educational and Correctional Institution, the CPT, having received  numerous allegations of ill-treatment, urged the authorities to “take concerted action to institute a change in the culture in the juvenile establishment which moves away from one governed by physical punishment to one based upon a juvenile-oriented educational approach” (para. 83). As regards detention conditions, the CPT regretted that the intensive care unit was “extremely carceral, resembling a high-security prison rather than a juvenile institution” (para. 85) and urged the authorities to re-design its structure and layout. The regime in this unit was also found to be impoverished. As regards discipline, the CPT noted with concern that juveniles could be separated in pairs for several days, with only one to two hours of access to a courtyard per day and no activities offered. Referring to “an increasing trend at the international level to abolish solitary confinement as a disciplinary sanction in respect of juveniles”, the CPT stressed that “measures of this kind should only be ordered in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible” (para. 98) in view of the “detrimental effect on the physical and/or mental wellbeing of juveniles” (para. 96).