“Quality of Food and Other Living Conditions of Prisoners in Penitentiaries”
Changes related to the types and proportions of food in penitentiary institutions (penitentiaries), which came into force օn June 10, 2017, will not resolve the issue of food quality as the observers conducting public oversight in penitentiary institutions believe.

A discussion was held on this issue at Media Center on July 14 during which Robert Revazyan, Member of Prison Monitoring Group, says that most of the convicts refuse to be served food because of poor quality of food.

“Everyday, the same menu is offered both for breakfast and lunch. For example, it may be boiled cabbage for breakfast or dinner every day. Many people say if they eat it for a month, they will have a stomach ulcer. There are many complaints that stomach burns occur because of the long-term use of this food,” Revazyan said.

Ruben Sargsyan, another member of Prison Monitoring Group, says that there are penitentiaries where the food quality has always been problematic.

“The main dissatisfaction comes from Nubarashen penitentiary, and then from Vardashen penitentiary, relatively fewer complaints are received from Armavir Penitentiary,” Sargsyan said.  

Reflecting on the Government's Decree on June 10, according to which the daily proportions and types of food changed, Revazyan says that the issue of food quality will not be resolved in this way. If 650 grams of bread was served to the detainee before, they would now be given 150 g less, that is 500 grams. According to the Government's decision, the proportions of meat, cheese and butter have also been diminished. Each day, the detainee reached 90 grams of meat or 180 grams of bone meat, now it will be given 16 days a month. Every day the detainees do not even eat cheese, they eat 25 grams per day.

Revazyan says that he does not understand on what basis the government was guided to reduce the daily bread cut by 150 grams. According to him, it was necessary to change not the proportions but to improve the quality of the food.

“For example, if a certain proportion of grains is supposed daily, they can give the same type every day and fulfill the intended proportion.  Of course, it is good that vegetables have so far expanded but many things have been reduced instead. What I would say is that I do not expect any revolutionary changes,” Revazyan said.

Armen Hakobyan, Head of Material and Technical Support Divisionof Penitentiary Department of RA Ministry of Justice, disagrees and says that except Goris and Armavir penitentiaries, meals are made by the prisoners in all the prisons.   

“The quality of food is guaranteed. No prisoners can prepare poor quality food not only because of our control but also due to their internal order. The dishes are all quality; you can make yourself convinced at any time, any day,” Hakobyan said.  

Tigran Sahakyan, Deputy Head of Legal Division of Penitentiary Department of RA Ministry of Justice, says that according to their research a small percentage of the prisoners refuses the served food. The calculation was made according to the total number of 100 parcels received daily and the total number of the convicts is 3800. 

“According to the results of this study, in fact, 9% refuse the food produced in penitentiary institutions,” Sahakyan said. 

Revazyan responds by pointing to the queues in front of the penitentiaries. “If you see the flow of people who stand at the delivery points to pass big bags of food ... Besides, a parcel is not for a person. ... Every day, the food for the cell can be brought by someone's relative.”

Meanwhile, the department staff assures that the food issue will be improved in penitentiary institutions with the new amendments. They note that the proportion of food in Armenia's penitentiary institutions has been revised taking into consideration the experience and standards of the Russian Federation.

“If my colleagues have studied, they will assert that there are different standards for different categories of convicts and detainees in Russia. They are different for juveniles, working prisoner, inmates. The proportions are different for everyone, from 400 to 650 grams. As for bread proportion, I consider it necessary to inform that it has also been reduced in psychiatric institutions,” Hakobyan said.

“For example, butter used to be provided to pregnant women, juveniles and sick people. Now it is provided every day. A chicken egg was previously provided only for pregnant women, now it is provided monthly, 6 eggs per month. These problems are considered as a result of certain maintenance of caloric value. In carrying out these changes, experts in various fields have been invited to make these changes so that cooks can provide the necessary kilocalories,” Hakobyan said.

To watch the video, follow the link.  

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