Conditions of Female Convicts in Georgia

Natia Gogolashvili

According to the December, 2014 data of the Ministry of Corrections of Georgia, 10 372 convicts were in the penitentiary establishments in Georgia; 10 091 of them were men and 281 – women.

In 2014 organization Penal Reform International [PRI] published a survey report “Who are women prisoners? Survey results from Georgia.” The survey relies on the data from 2013 according to which 39% of female prisoners were convicted for swindling. Other offences, like – embezzlement, document fabrication or selling fake documents make up 3% of total crimes that might be categorized under swindling. Another more frequently committed crime is connected with the drug-abuse and they make 29% of total female offences. 

Lawyer Tamar Lukava of Human Rights Center provides five female convicts with free legal aid. She said there are significant miscarriages in the criminal cases against those women. “All five women are convicted under the Article 260 of the Criminal Code of Georgia that is illegal purchase, possession and realization of drugs. The problem is that all of them were sentenced to long terms. The men convicts are sentenced to 15 year-imprisonments for the same crime while women are sentenced to 25-years. It is caused by judiciary miscarriages. It is noteworthy that all five women do not plead guilty and there are serious faults in their criminal cases: investigation and court hearings were not properly conducted. The solicitations of the lawyers were not satisfied at all.”

Tsira Tchanturia, regional director at PRI, also noted that early-release of female prisoners is not frequent case. She said the cases of each early-released prisoner shall be impartially assessed and estimated how their re-socialization happened and whether her early-release was reasonable decision; unfortunately similar evaluation does not happen nowadays. 

“Specific needs of the women must be considered when their imprisonment terms are fixed.  There are UN Bangkok Rules, which state that social role of the woman must be considered when imposing prison term on her or when amending the prison term - for example when the female convict is pardoned. Besides, it is desired that non-imprisonment terms were more often used in cases of women,” Tsira Tchanturia said.

PRI conducted survey at the end of 2013, which studied the needs and priorities of women prisoners. The research revealed that socially indigent women live in poor conditions in penitentiary establishments; the administration cannot provide them with the seasonal cloths and with different necessary items. Consequently, the prisoners, whose families have financial problems and cannot send necessary items to the convicts, serve their prison terms in poor conditions. Tsira Tchanturia said the female prisoners need different rehabilitation services that are not provided by the state so far. 
The research showed that the rehabilitations programs offered to the women are not enough. Mostly nongovernmental organizations implement different programs, like psycho-social rehabilitation programs. The prisoners, who were drug-addicts, need support after they leave prison.

Tsira Tchanturia, regional director at PRI: “We also studied how gender-specific issues were ensured for female convicts. It is important to be aware that women, unlike men, have particular needs. They had problems to contact families. Families could not transfer money to the phone cards for socially indigent prisoners that made their phone-contact impossible with the family members. The prisoners said they could not often call their children. In 2006 conjugal visits of family members was abolished, but later it was restored for men and juvenile prisoners; the women prisoner still cannot enjoy this right. Nobody speaks about the reasons publicly but in private talks decision makers admitted they did not want female prisoners to get pregnant. Their pregnancy would have created additional problems for the prison administrations. Consequently, neither children have chance to spend long time with mothers. They offered family meetings to the women prisoners as alternative but I think it is not good alternative because in this case mothers can spend only 2 hours with children and it is short conjugal visit.”

Tamar Lukava, lawyer of Human Rights Center said the phone does not work properly in the prison #5 that creates problem for prisoners when they call relatives. “According to the prisoners, the phone does not work properly in their facility that creates problem for them. They can make only three phone calls but because of the damaged apparatus the phone might drop their calls. Consequently, the prisoners cannot enjoy their right to have phone contact with relatives. The Ministry of Prison is responsible to resolve this problem: either cancel the agreement with the company which is in charge of the tele-communication in the prison or to demand them to improve the service.”

One of the main problems in the prisons is medical service. According to the Ministry of Corrections, by December 2014 the prisoners mostly complained about stomatologic problems; prisoners also often complain about breathing and  food digestive systems, self-injuries and traumas, psychic problems, urine-gentile systems, cardiovascular systems, organs of sense, bone systems and neural systems, etc. Diseases like HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and cancer are more rare cases.

The survey of the PRI revealed that despite the improved medical treatment standards, the problems are still there in the penitentiary system.

“One of the most problematic issues is unavailability or low quality of medical services. Much was done to improve the service. Even medical treatment standards were improved, including referral. But the situation is far from the ideal. The referring system needs further improvement. The examinations and analysis must be of higher quality. In 2013 the women convicts complained that they could not receive the medical services timely and adequately. For example, women said that when doctor prescribes complex treatment and several medicines, they cannot get all medicines. They said they received medicines eventually that of course negatively impacted on the treatment results,” Tsira Tchanturia said. 

The conditions of the women prisoners with limited possibilities are also problematic because of non-adapted environment in prison facilities. According to the monitors of the PRI, during the survey there were several women prisoners with disabilities in the prisons who need wheelchairs and particular care. There are neither qualified care-takers nor wheelchairs in the facilities. 

Tsira Tchanturia noted that situation of women prisoners with children was improved in comparison to previous years. She said a woman can live in a separate cell together with her child and there are normal conditions in the room. Tsira Tchanturia added that food for the breastfeeding moms and children was also improved that was regulated based on the decree of the Minister of Corrections. However, she said the food issue must be regulated for the foreign citizens too. For example, if religion prohibits prisoners to eat some food, they should have special menu. 

In its 2013 Parliamentary Report Public Defender of Georgia stated that several essential problems are still unaddressed in the prison # 5. According to the report, during their protests, the female prisoners protested medical service, requested revision of their criminal cases and had complaints about fairness of the early-release mechanism. Public Defender issued several recommendations about the issue. 

“Since women prisoners are a special category of prisoners having special needs, these needs must be constantly assessed and handled through appropriate programmes. The best interests of children being in the Institution must be taken due account of. There should be gender-specific mental health and rehabilitation programmes. Women prisoners’ contact with the outside world should be facilitated to the highest possible extent. In this regard, it must be noted that women prisoners should be able to exercise the right to conjugal visits on equal basis with men. This issue is dealt with in detail in a chapter on conjugal visits,” the Parliamentary Report of the Public Defender reads.

Human Rights Center is starting project - Monitoring Conditions of Juvenile and Female Prisoners in Georgian Penitentiary. The project aims to reveal problems existing in prisons for female and juvenile convicts and promoting improvement of imprisonment conditions. In the frameworks of the project, in partnership with Office of Public Defender of Georgia, monitors of Human Rights Center will make scheduled and unscheduled visits to the female and juvenile prison facilities. Monitoring will be conducted in Rustavi #5 female and Tbilisi #11 juvenile prisons.

Human Rights Center offers free legal aid for the breached rights of women and juvenile prisoners. Please call hotline numbers: 2 38 46 48; 2 45 45 33.

23 Mar. '15