Lithuania: infringe prisoners' rights continue
Following its 2018 visit to Lithuanian prison facilities, the Committee Against Torture found that the state was continuing to violate the rights of prisoners. The Committee had the most to say about the Alytus, Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities, which it visited between 20 and 27 April. Chief among the Committee’s concerns were cases of extreme physical and psychological violence from the guards (which even happened during the visit).The Committee reiterates that guards cannot respond to infractions with violence, in abuse of their positions. According to the Committee, if there is no other option but for force to be used, the actions of the staff must be filmed and made available for review. Currently, this is not the case in any of the institutions.
The Committee also reported extremely high levels of violence (including sexual abuse), intimidation and exploitation among prisoners in the facilities it visited. Inmates still maintain informal, hierarchical subcultures in prisons. The Committee was particularly critical of the fact that the guards tolerate this violence and do not do enough to keep convicts safe.
As in its previous reports, the Committee stressed the need for additional staff resources (especially in prison healthcare) and training.
Prison conditions unsatisfactory in many cases
The Committee viewed the refurbishment of the Alytus, Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities in a positive light. The cells met the minimum requirements for each individual and were sufficiently illuminated. However, not all the facilities, including some of the refurbished ones, met the hygiene requirements, with prisoners still only being allowed one shower a week and unable to engage in leisure activities of their choice. The Committee was particularly harsh when it came to the continued holding of prisoners in “colony-type” dorms and the stalled transition to a cell-based system. Overcrowded cells continue to be one of the main causes of violence among prisoners. It is essential to move to smaller, less crowded cells in the facilities.
While prisoners serving life sentences can communicate with one other, they remain separated from other inmates. The Committee drew attention to this practice and urged the State to perform individual risk assessments when deciding whether to isolate prisoners instead of operating on prejudice.
Healthcare needs to be improved
Inmate health received a lot of attention in the report. Not only was there a general shortage of healthcare professionals, but also many incidents of violence, the consequences of which were not recorded or portrayed truthfully.
According to the Committee, a long-term strategy is needed to fight addiction to substances, as well as trafficking and sharing of drugs. Even though rehabilitation centres have been established in the Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities, they will not have a lasting effect if prisoners are returned to an environment where others continue to use drugs. For example, 21 new HIV infections were reported at the Alytus correctional facility in 2016, with the number jumping to 58 in 2017.
In addition to cases of HIV and hepatitis, the system pays too little attention to prisoners’ psychosocial health. The Committee asked to be informed how the State plans to address these long-standing problems, all of which require short- and long-term action plans.
Lukiškės Remand Prison closed
After years of criticism from the Committee, the Vilnius Lukiškės Remand Prison was finally closed this July, with the inmates being transferred to other prisons. However, it remains to be seen whether this will ensure proper conditions for prison inmates in the long term. Many inmates claim that they have not seen their loved ones for months, and transfer is likely to exacerbate the overcrowding issue.
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