Each inmate is required to have 4m2 in prisons and 3m2 in detention facilities. However this is not respected in most facilities. Prison N8 is particularly overcrowded.
Cells are collective, and equipped with chairs, beds, a sink and a toilet. Some cells, such as those in prison N5, are not adequately ventilated. This can cause extreme heat problems during the summer. According to prisoners, in summertime from 8pm to 10am, living areas are closed and prisoners suffer from a lack of air due to double bars in cells.
There are 18 cells in the N11 juvenile rehabilitation facility and each has its own toilet and shower with hot water. Concrete flooring, iron beds and the lack of mattresses are all considered problematic for the health of prisoners.
Prisoner meals are served three times a day. There are no major complaints regarding food in Georgian prisons or juvenile facilities. Observers from the Human Rights Center who visited a prison shop in N5 noticed an absence of fruits and vegetables, and reported this to the Ministry of Corrections.
Private organisations are charged with meal preparation. Inmates can also cook in their cells with products received from outside the prison, or purchased from the prison shop. Medical needs are taken into account when serving meals but religious practices are not.
The Human Right Center received many complaints about poor hygiene conditions in prison N7. These conditions led to the Public Defender of Georgia calling on relevant bodies to close the establishment.
Hygiene needs specific to women are not guaranteed by the administration in the N5 facility. Sanitary towels are not provided in sufficient quantity, nor are other basic hygienic products such as soap and toilet paper. Women receive only one unit of soap and one toilet paper per month, which is not considered sufficient. Prisoners in N5 receive 450g of washing powder, some toothpaste, a toothbrush, a toilet roll, 100 g of hand soap, and 200g of washing soap each month. Hot water is not available in the cells, which make it difficult for women to wash dishes and clothes.
Showers can be taken between 10am and 8pm in shared spaces. Organisations and the public defender have denounced bathroom conditions in blocks A, B and C in prison N5. Sewage and ventilation systems in these blocks are not working properly and damp has affected floors and walls.
Healthcare problems occur in almost every institution in Georgia. Prisoners suffer due to inadequate medical treatment, including untimely examinations, diagnosis and operational and post-operational treatments. The use of psychotropic medicines and sedatives is considered inappropriate.
A serious issue in Georgian prisons is the system of electronic queues for medical referrals. If a prisoner needs to be transferred to a hospital, the medical department of the Ministry of Corrections issues a number and patients must wait for their turn. This rule (Order N55), is not supposed to be used in case of emergency. The main flaw of this system is that it does not take into consideration individual needs, and sometimes prisoners can see their health state deteriorate as the result of untimely medical care. The system of referral does not apply to juveniles. According to the administration, the juvenile prisoners can be transferred to the N18 medical facility or civil hospitals.
Prisoners can ask to be transferred to civil hospital at their own expense, but it appears that few prisoners are informed about this option. The Human Rights Center (HRC) provides legal aid to some prisoners facing inadequate medical treatment. Breaches of prisoner’s right to medical care are the main reason legal aid is requested. In 2015, HRC received most of these complaints from the Batumi Penitentiary Establishment N3.
The HRC recently requested the release of a prisoner (I.T) from N5, whose life is now in danger due to a “significant failure of valves, pulmonary hypertension, swelling of the lower limbs and lymphostasis”. Examination was at the prisoner’s expense, however she cannot receive adequate treatment in the prison.
Various cultural events are held in the women prison N5 in Rusatvi, including plays and poetry nights, which are viewed positively by the prisoners. Women prisoners are actively involved in the rehearsals, and expressed their satisfaction with the play.
This facility has a highly equipped library, which fully meets international standards. It is well furnished and equipped, and has Georgian and foreign books.
In N5, employment opportunities for the women prisoners include agricultural work, cleaning the facilities and cellblocks, washing prisoner linens and distributing food products. The working day for employed convicts is eight hours. A break time is defined based on the characteristics of work and according to the shift scheduled.
Prisoners involved in agricultural work come together to form working groups. The salary for the head of the working group is 250 GEL (approx. 96 euros) per month, the deputy head 225 GEL, and group members 200 GEL (approx. 75 euros)
It is not possible for adults to receive a higher education in prison. There are no distance-learning programs for juvenile prisoners. There are cases where juvenile prisoners have passed university entrance exams, but have not been able to continue learning after coming of age and being transferred to an adult prison.
The N11 juvenile prison has a school located in a separate building, connected to the public school N123 of Tbilisi. Teachers are not given special training to deal with prisoners, e.g. educational methods, attitudes, etc.
Most prisons have Georgian Orthodox Christian chapels, but no specific denominational areas for worship. Representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities reported no problems with Muslim or Jewish prisoners worshiping according to their beliefs.
Complaint boxes are available within each prison, however there is no effective mechanism for complaint handling. Prisoners often resort to extreme forms of protest, such as hunger strikes and self-harm.
According an Ombudsman survey, prisoner satisfaction is extremely low: almost half of the prisoners have filed complaints saying their complaints were not followed-up. 10% of prisoners said they wanted to file a complaint, but did not do so, a large proportion because they feared intimidation from the penitentiary administration. Intimidation has also taken place from prosecutors, investigators and other prisoners. Many respondents admitted to self-censorship, fearing that lodging a complaint would aggravate their situation.
In late January 2015, almost 60 prisoners with life-long sentences started a hunger strike, with 47 lasting until 4th March without success. The prisoners demanded to have their life-term sentence converted to a fixed term, which would then be reduced according to the mass amnesty or sentence reduction granted after the 2012 prison scandal.
As the inmates of the Penitentiary Establishment N3 claimed, aggression and provocation by prison staff has increased. If prisoners respond to provocations, they may be denied access to conjugal visits, parcels, phone calls, or trips to the prison shop. The Public Defender has recommended that principles be developed for applying sanctions, however none currently exist. Prisoners are frequently placed in solitary confinement as punishment, while it is also common for punishments to be disproportionate or unjust.