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

Specific population

The number of prisoners has decreased. There were 147,112 in 2013 versus 60,771 in 2016. The reforms undertaken since 2012 probably contributed to this. The reform of the Criminal Procedure Code reduced the number of prisoners held in pre-trial detention. The law on probation promulgated in February 2015 aimed to humanise the penitentiary system. The so-called Savchenko law voted in 2016 stipulates that a day spent in pre-trial detention corresponds to two days of detention in the counting of the sentence. This law was later contested and repealed in May 2017. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Justice has not provided information to assess the impact of these reforms. The loss of part of its territory by the country also explains the decrease in the number of prisoners enumerated.

As of September 2016, the number of persons held in pre-trial detention amounted to 26.8% (16,296) of the prison population. .

The official occupancy rate is 63%. In 2015, the actual occupancy rate was 110%[^taux occupation réel] despite the decrease in the number of prisoners. Prisoners are grouped together in institutions that end up being overcrowded. This is due to the difficulty of finding staff near the establishments, the high operating costs (such as the heating costs) and the government’s will to close prisons.

See Premises for more information.

[^taux occupation réel]: Council of Europe, “Criminal Justice Responses to Prison Overcrowding in Eastern Partnership Countries”, March 2016.

Pre-trial detainees

26.8 %

/ World Prison Brief

As of September 2016, 2,795 women prisoners (4.6% of the prison population) were housed in 11 prisons. They are often assigned to facilities distant from their place of residence.

The national law does not make a difference in the conditions of detention between men and women, unless women are pregnant or have a child under the age of three[^hommes femmes]. The law does not provide for specific needs of women, whether physiologically or psychologically. They cannot consult a gynaecologist.

There is no regulation concerning the need for privacy in the event of a medical examination (compulsory on arrival at the institution). Everything happens in the presence of the newcomers and the staff. There is no formal provision for women to be examined by a female doctor or nurse.

National law does not prohibit the use of handcuffs on pregnant women before, during and after childbirth1. On 24 June 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the case of Korneykova and Korneykov against Ukraine. Ms. Korneykova was handcuffed to her bed during her maternity stay.

Correctional institutions may set up nurseries to accommodate children under the age of three. Women prisoners may apply to live there. In this case, they must be able to communicate with their children without restriction. Children should benefit from normal living and development conditions. Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant prisoners can receive food parcels and essential supplies in larger quantities than other prisoners.

Sentencing arrangements exist for pregnant women at the time of the offense, at the time of the judgment or when enforcing the sentence. These arrangementsalso concern women with children under 14 years of age.

See NPM for more information on the conditions of detention of women in the correctional colony 129.

  1. Penal Reform International, “Status of human rights implementation for vulnerable prisoners in Ukraine”, 2016. [^hommes femmes]: Ibid

Number of specific institutions for women


/ State Penitentiary Service

Female prisoners

4.6 %

/ World Prison Brief

In 2015, the Ministry of Justice counted six facilities reserved for juveniles. At this time they housed 418 prisoners. In 2016, they house 425 minors. One centre is dedicated to the 20 young girls held in custody.

Minors are criminally responsible from the age of 14. The minimum age for the application of custodial sentences is 16 years old.

Minors are usually separated from adults. This is not always the case in remand facilities.

Their living conditions are generally better than those of adults. Food, clothing, shoes and municipal services are free of charge. Juveniles have specific visiting rights: short visits are not limited in number and they are entitled to one long visit per month1. The Criminal Code emphasises the obligation of education for young people. High school students have free access to education. They can stay in educational colonies until they are 22 years old.

However, cases of abuse have been reported. The Office of the Ombudsman reported, in 2014, that the Kuryazka centre designates young prisoners to impose order. In the case of self-inflicted injuries, salt is poured on the wounds, prisoners must sometimes stand as punishment for up to 15 hours. Juveniles with suicidal tendencies are obliged to carry sandbags, including during their sleep.

Minors do not have access to specific care. For example, they cannot consult a psychologist.

  1. See Visits for more information on this right. 

Number of specific institutions for juveniles/minors


/ World Prison Brief

Juvenile prisoners

0.7 %

/ World Prison Brief

On 1st of September 2016, foreigners represented 1.7% of the prison population, i.e. 1,033 prisoners. The access to a translator is difficult and therefore their rights are not always respected. However, actions are taken to amend this problem. For example, posters presenting the detainees rights written in several languages are placed in the police stations.

Foreign prisoners

1.7 %

/ World Prison Brief

Cases of prisoners of conscience are recorded. Freelance journalist and blogger Ruslan Kotsaba was arrested on 7th of February 2015. He had posted a video on YouTube in which he demanded an immediate halt to the fighting in the Donbass. He was held in pre-trial detention and charged, on 31st of March, with “State treason” and “obstruction of the legitimate activities of the Ukrainian armed forces”.

On 11th of May 2017, the Lviv court sentenced a man to 2.5 years imprisonment with a probationary period for propagating Communist ideology. He was posting on Facebook photos and other materials displaying symbols of the communist regime. This crime is punishable by article 436 of the Criminal Code (production, distribution of communist and Nazi symbols, propaganda of Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes).

There are 1,200 disabled in prison.