Contributor(s)Human Rights Information Centre / Ukraine without torture / Prison Insider

Daily life

The minimum surface for a cell is 4 m² per person as defined by articles 64 and 115 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This does not meet the current European standards (6 m²).

Most of the time, cells are not equipped with ventilation, natural light does not penetrate and there is no access to drinking water.

In the temporary detention centre in Kiev, prisoners are forced to sleep in turn. At the time of the visit of the representatives of the Ombudsman, they were 20 prisoners for 16 beds. They are sometimes 25 to 30 for the same number of beds.

In the prison of Zaporizhzhya, a cell of 16m², without toilet and without watering point, housed 22 prisoners on 21st July 20161.

See National Preventive Mechanism to find out more about the living conditions in the penal colony 4.

  1. Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, “Monitoring places of detention in Ukraine”, 2017. 

Prisons serve three hot meals a day. Prisoners can buy food at the prison store.

The Ombudsman Office identifies in its report problems in the food supply chain:

  • Prisoners in Colony 4 did not have meat for almost a month.
  • Colony 12 served canned meat and fish exclusively.
  • Observers from the Ombudsman’s office discovered rotten fruits and vegetables in the colony 9.

Text and pictures by Ukraine without torture

Information below concerns 12 pre-trial detention centers and 17 penitentiary institutions including a pre-trial detention centre function. They hold about 17,000 prisoners in custody and convicted. All facilities monitored by the NPM were equipped with sanitary units, where prisoners or convicts can wash during the day. The water comes only in cold temperatures. Prolonged washing with cold water leads to narrowing of blood vessels and slowing of blood circulation, which affects the deterioration of the skin.

There is no toilet tank. Soap, toothpaste, other necessities and personal hygiene products of primary necessity are sent by relatives. Prisoners are taken to the bath laundry complex once a week. On this day, they can also visit the hairdresser.

Convicts can use clothing provided by the prison administration or their own clothes, of dark colour and other prisoners can use their own dark colour clothes.

Upon admission, prisoners must undergo a primary medical examination and a bath. It includes a check up to verify the absence of infectious diseases and parasites and a review of the medical record. According to regulatory legal acts, this procedure should be followed in all cases. In practice, it is not implemented in all facilities; for instance, the Lukyanovka pre-trial detention centre.

After the medical examination, prisoners must be given two bed sheets, one pillow case, a mug, a spoon, a plate, a mattress and a pillow. Detainees can use their own belongings. Each convict is provided with a bed. Mattresses, pillows and blankets are disinfected.

Between 2 and 30 people can be detained in one cell. Cells include a toilet and a washbasin with cold water. Toilets are usually without partitions. The facilities in the cell are typically found in a neglected state, with the presence of fungus and mould.

The administration should provide disinfectant liquid, but it is not the case yet. Prisoners must use their own. They clean their cells by their own initiative. . There is a prisoner in charge of the cleaning of the cell in each pre-trial detention centre.

Hygiene in Ukrainian prisons from Prison Insider on Vimeo.

Prisoners are subjected to a health check when they arrive in prison. The results are recorded in a personal health record.

The health system in prisons is subordinate to the prison officials’ management and depends on the Ministry of Justice. This results in a lack of funding and independence. Cases of ill-treatments and torture are poorly reported. Prisoners do not have access to specific care such as dentists or gynaecologists.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) observed that, between November 2016 and February 2017, the general conditions of detention in some institutions did not meet international standards. Problems relating to medical care were identified. Administrative and financial barriers prevented the transfer of prisoners in need of hospital care. The OHCHR identified seven cases in which the SBU obstructed access to medical care for detainees related to the on-going armed conflict. In some cases, the SBU had pressured doctors to testify of the absence of injuries requiring treatment and investigation. The SBU denied these allegations.

Ukrainian prisons registered 1,177 cases of tuberculosis in 2015.

The disabled, the elderly, HIV-positive prisoners or those suffering from tuberculosis face, in 2016, the greatest difficulties in asserting their rights. The Nelson Mandela rule 24 is not respected: it states that prisoners must have access to medical care without discrimination as to their legal status and that the health services should be closely linked to the Ministry in charge of Health to facilitate continuity of care. Continuity of treatment and care is not ensured for sick prisoners.

Less than 4% of prisoners living with HIV received antiretroviral therapy by 2016.

Vyacheslav Syyrets, Head of the Human Rights Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, denounced the death of a 21-year-old prisoner, in early 2017, due to a delayed medical assistance. “A young man died in the hospital, where he was brought from the infamous Lukyanivska detention centre. How many times do we need to repeat that doctors are forced to do everything to hide the beatings and injured when they are depending on the management of the detention centre… Of course, the medical unit tried to help the prisoner on their own. But it is impossible to provide the necessary assistance with serious injuries with such old equipment […]”.

See National Prevention Mechanism for more information on healthcare access in the penal colony 4.

Written by Ukraine without torture

Prisoners are entitled to a 1-hour walk per day. Children and prisoners with tuberculosis are entitled to a 2-hour walk per day. This right is respected.

There are no sports organised in pre-trial detention facilities. Each walking yard is equipped with sporting equipment, such as a horizontal bar. Prisoners can play football with a self-made ball of rags.

Each prison includes a library. Prisoners do not have access to any kind of newspapers or magazines.

There are radio stations inside the cells but most of the radios are not used or do not work. A TV may be set in each cell. It must be provided by the prisoner’s relatives or paid for by the prisoners themselves. Phone calls are not permitted. Correspondence is also forbidden whilst the prisoner is under investigation.

Prisoners are permitted to work. The work is paid and lasts eight hours a day with a meal break. Men typically work with metal or wood and women do sewing[^travail].

The Labour Code regulates work in prison. Prisoners may work for private companies, institutions or the prison administration. The work week shall not exceed the period provided for in the Labour Code. Contracts are signed between the colony administration and the companies. Due to the corruption of the prison administration, work is not always declared.

The prisoners from Colonies 100 and 25 do not always receive their salary. Prison staff pressures them to work overtime for which they are not paid.

The State finances the penitentiary system up to 35 to 40% of its needs. Prisons offering the best conditions of detention are those that complete their budget by self-financing. Prisoners then finance the prison with their salary. Prisoners are considered to be cheap labour: they are paid the equivalent of 0.35 euro per month while the minimum wage is 50 euros in the country. The law authorising the self-financing of prisons was repealed in 2012 but the problem persists. This functioning and the perception of the prisoner, as not being a full-fledged worker, is a legacy of the Soviet era.

Life prisoners may work but must do so in their cells. Other prisoners work in workshops.

On 5th of January 2017, the Associate Deputy Minister of the Penitentiary System announced that payroll cards would be distributed to prisoners to enable them to purchase from prison stores in the near future. Prisoners’ salary will be paid onto this card. This is part of the reform of the penitentiary system.

See National Prevention Mechanism for more information on working conditions in the correctional colony 129.

Detainees working

0 %

It is possible for the prisoners to take general or professional training.

Professional schools exist in 75 prisons. The detainees training is provided by 124 schools.

During the school year 2015-2016, 7,600 prisoners took courses to supplement their secondary education which corresponds to 8% of the prison population at this time (94,783 in 2015). By 2015, out of 10,000 unqualified prisoners, 6,940 underwent vocational training. This represents 7.3% of the prison population this time.

On 21st July 2016, a riot broke out in colony 132 after an official of the state prison service abused one of the prisoners.

Searches must be carried out by staff of the same sex as the prisoner (see article 60 of the Criminal Code). The administration must inform prisoners of the use of audio-visual monitoring and surveillance.

The Ombudsman 2017 report states that in Colony 100, the prisoners’ phone is connected to a second telephone. It allows staff to spy on prisoner conversations.