08TBILISI362, NEW DIRECTION FOR PRISON REFORM?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI362 2008-03-05 13:36 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ1465
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #0362/01 0651336
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051336Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9013

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000362 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM GG
SUBJECT: NEW DIRECTION FOR PRISON REFORM? 
 
REF: 07 TBILISI 2450 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (U)  Summary:  Representatives from the Penitentiary 
Service (PS) and Ministry Of Justice (MOJ) announced March 4 
that Tbilisi Prison Number 5 pre-trial detainment facility is 
now officially closed.  All prisoners have been transferred 
to other facilities and MOJ plans to demolish the building 
during the month of March.  PS and MOJ representatives 
signaled a possible change in approach from focusing on the 
construction of new prisons to that of working with donors to 
build a rehabilitation system for prisoners to prepare them 
for a successful return to civil society.  Approximately 
2,000 prisoners have been released since the last months of 
2007, which includes those who benefited from amnesty, 
pardons and early release programs.  The major obstacles to 
crafting a rehabilitation scheme now are the lack of 
provisions for it in the current Penitentiary Code, dedicated 
MOJ funding, and a dearth of qualified social workers and 
prison staff.  MOJ and PS interest in constructing a 
rehabilitation plan was welcomed by the international donors, 
who have long wanted more direct interface with PS and MOJ 
representatives and a closer working relationship.  End 
Summary. 
 
Overcrowding:  Tbilisi #5 closed 
-------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  Poloff and members from the NGO donor community and 
representatives from the diplomatic community met with PS 
representatives, Dato Kelkabiani (reftel), and Irene 
Tsintsadze, and MOJ representatives Ketevan Akalkertsi and 
 
SIPDIS 
Levan Meskoradze to hear about MOJ's plan for prison reform 
in 2008.  At this meeting, Tsintsadze announced that as of 
March 4, all prisoners who were being held in Tbilisi Prison 
(pretrial confinement) Number 5 had been transferred to 
Gldani,and Rustavi Prisons 2 and 6.  (Note:  none of the 
later three are listed as being overcrowded either by 
Ministry of Justice information, nor in the Council of 
Europe's October report carried out by the European Committee 
for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading 
Punishment or Treatment.)  Further, they announced that since 
late 2007, approximately 2,000 prisoners had been released 
due to amnesty, pardon and early release programs.  (Comment: 
 PS agreed to compile and share this data by the end of 
March.) In 2008, MOJ plans on renovating Geguti and Laituri 
prisons, the later to which they will send prisoners who are 
currently incarcerated in Zugdidi to ease overcrowding. 
Currently, a new prison is being constructed in Ninotsminda 
which will serve as a regional prison for southern Georgia. 
 
New Direction for Prison Reform? 
-------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Tsintsadze said the main two directions now for 
prison reform was in the area of social rehabilitation and 
health care strategy.  If before the first phase was arrest 
and incarceration in support of zero tolerance, then the 
second phase was social reintegration of returning prisoners 
to society.  She voiced her hopes of more closely working 
with UNICEF in regards to juvenile justice and training of 
social workers.  Tsintsadze expressed her appreciation to the 
International Red Cross (ICRC) for the needs assessment which 
will give the ministry a better idea of what kind of medical 
care should be provided.  Tsintsadze was hopeful that the 
success of the Atlantis drug rehabilitation, which was 
successfully introduced in Rustavi Prison Number 6 in 
December 2007, could be further implemented into other 
prisons.  She agreed that qualified applicants for prison 
staff was lacking, due in large part to the stigma of working 
in a prison, and said that more needs to be done to change 
this public perception.  She admitted that there is a sizable 
gap between the penitentiary and probation systems which 
needs to be addressed to have a successful rehabilitation 
program. 
 
Obstacles to Reform 
------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  NGO donors present cited the lack of provision in 
the current Penitentiary Code for rehabilitation as a major 
obstacle.  As is, this code does not meet European Standards 
and contradicts rehabilitation plans; it would necessarily 
need to be amended.  Other peripheral issues which are 
problematic are the dearth of qualified social workers, and 
lack of MOJ budget dedicated to rehab projects.  Donors are 
keen to find a better way to work with MOJ to prevent 
duplication of effort, but until now there has not been an 
active forum with MOJ representatives in which to coordinate 
efforts. 
How Do You Get There From Here? 
------------------------------ 
 
5.  (C)  Ministry representatives agreed that the first step 
in implementing any rehab projects would be to review the 
action plan and use it as a tool to update MOJ strategy.  MOJ 
agreed to host the next meeting in early April which would be 
dedicated to this effort.  Once this document is updated, it 
could be used to coordinate donor activity and a timeline. 
All donors present stressed the need for MOJ involvement and 

proactive support for the project to be successful. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
6.  (C) The deplorable conditions and overcrowding in Tbilisi 
Prison Number 5 have long been documented.  Resolving the 
issue is a major plus for Georgian authorities.  If PS 
releases the statistical information promised and MOJ hosts a 
strategic review as indicated, this could be the first step 
in using the successful TIP (trafficking in persons) model, 
which used NGO support, some of them quite critical of the 
government, and government iron will, to successfully tackle 
tough issues and implement reform. 
TEFFT

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