Bodily harm, self-mutilation, subculture: how to combat ill-treatment in penitentiary system?

The bad detention conditions, precarious medical assistance, insufficiency of inspection bodies, criminal subculture are only some of the problems that obstruct the efficient functioning of the mechanism for identifying, registering and reporting alleged cases of ill-treatment in the penitentiary system of the Republic of Moldova, says Promo-LEX’s report “Assessment of Mechanism for Preventing and Combating Ill-Treatment in the Penitentiary System of the Republic of Moldova” that was presented in a news conference hosted by IPN.

The report includes the results of a complex analysis of data collected during fact-finding visits to seven penitentiaries, at workshops and by individual interviews with decision makers and also detainees. The document comes to assist the authorities in identifying cases that reduce the efficiency of the mechanism for identifying, registering, reporting and examining cases of ill-treatment and in optimizing this instrument that is now not applied appropriately.

After collecting the data, Promo-LEX ascertained that since the Regulations on the procedure for identifying, registering and reporting alleged cases of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment took effect, less than 1% of the cases of bodily harm have been recorded in accordance these.

“At the same time, only one third of the cases of bodily harm that represent alleged cases of ill-treatment were reported to the Prosecutor’s Office and less than 4% of these were examined in accordance with the provisions of the Penal Procedure Code. At each stage of application of the mechanism, there were identified shortcomings and formulated recommendations for optimizing the functioning of the given mechanism,” said Promo-LEX jurist Dumitru Russu, co-author of the report.

This way, it was established that at the stage of identifying and registering potential situations of ill-treatment, the authorities and inspection bodies failed to ensure the appropriate recording and confidentiality of data. The existence of criminal subculture that violently discourages the denouncing prisoners is another identified problem. Also, the disadvantageous detention conditions for detainees who refuse to obey the internal “rules” set down by the subculture discourage cooperation with the authorities.

To make themselves heard, the prisoners resort to self-mutilation or even suicide. In the course of 2021 alone, there were recorded at least 800 cases of self-mutilation, 31 suicide attempts and 6 cases of suicide. This fact confirms once again the seriousness of the problem and the necessity of taking urgent measures to ensure the protection of the rights of convicts.

However, the lack of mechanisms and technical procedures for immediately and directly reporting cases to the Prosecutor’s Office, the acute shortage of personnel and the overburdening of the staff of the national penitentiary system do not favor prompt and efficient reporting of potential cases of ill-treatment.

The report contains 38 recommendations. Among these are digitalizing the process of registering cases of ill-treatment, incasing the number of superintendents (penitentiary agents), equipping common use areas with surveillance cameras, informing detainees about the mechanism and developing the infrastructure of medical services available to prisoners.

Also, the authors note the international standards provide that the state must ensure the person in detention is treated in accordance with the law and the rights of this are respected. The implementation of the mechanism stipulated by the regulations is essential for providing guarantees against ill-treatment. This mechanism shall be reanimated and supported by a regulated and independent monitoring system that can ensure visits to penitentiaries and efficient and prompt investigation of all the alleged cases of ill-treatment by a responsible body.

Note: IPN News Agency gives the right of reply to persons who consider they were touched by the news items produced based on statements of the organizers of the given news conference, including by facilitating the organization of another news conference in similar conditions.

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