"Detention conditions at penitentiaries: unresolved issues or reforms?”
The detention conditions and issues of detainees at penitentiaries remain unchanged as compared to the previous years. This opinion was expressed by Robert Revazyan, member of the Public Observers’ Group Conducting Public Monitoring at Penitentiaries of the RA MoJ, at the discussion hosted by the Media Center on January 19.

"Particularly, overcrowding at Nubarashen penitentiary is a very serious issue. Cells intended for 8 persons are occupied by 15 persons and the ground floor of the facilities is not fit for residence at all. It’s a damp semi-basement floor with cold and moldy walls and any insect can be found there. At the penitentiary facilities, there are cells in very poor conditions and there are also some cells in a good state renovated at the expense of the detainees," Revazyan says.

The speaker believes that the state should undertake to improve equally all the cells.

"The most urgent issue at penitentiaries also covers hierarchical relations and no one fights against them. I think it’s high time to map out a concept to reduce such relations," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Tigran Sahakyan, Deputy Head of the Legal Division of the RA MoJ Penitentiary Department, did not deny either the issue of overcrowding and poor conditions.

"In 2009, it was decided to carry out infrastructure reforms, but our financial situation makes it impossible to do so in a year or two. To solve the problem, ‘Armavir’ penitentiary facility has been built in recent years, which mitigated overcrowding. As a result of full implementation of the reform program, we will later have more other penitentiaries meeting the international standards. In near future, it is planned to build new penitentiary facilities in Goris," Sahakyan said.

Zara Hovhannisyan, member of the Public Observers’ Group Conducting Public Monitoring at Penitentiaries of the RA MoJ, touched upon the medical care issues at the penitentiaries noting that unsolved health problems led to death cases and particularly recalled Artur Sargsyan's death. 

"At the end of the year, we also visited the women's penitentiary facilities in Abovyan. There, we identified 2 serious cases. Sick female convicts have no caregivers at all; healthy convicts take care of them, whereas penitentiary facilities should be able to provide adequate medical care for convicts. We reported this to the Ministry of Justice and received a denial. As a result, one of the women died, and the other one is in the intensive care unit. The penitentiaries and MoJ are responsible for such cases," Hovhannisyan said.

Robert Revazyan notes that if the state cannot treat convicts with serious diseases, they should be released for treatment rather than kept at penitentiaries till their death.

Lieutenant Colonel Tigran Sahakyan countered noting that in 2017, 1740 detainees and convicts were taken to civilian hospitals as their treatment at the penitentiaries was inefficient.

Sahakyan also disagreed with the view that detainees’ diseases are very often associated with the detention conditions or inconsistent medical staff.

As for the food quality at the penitentiaries, Robert Revazyan says this sector has seen no revolutionary difference or improvement either.

"If parcels to the penitentiaries are banned for 1-2 weeks, the detainees will start a riot. Such a ban may be possible only if high-quality food is provided at penitentiaries," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Tigran Sahakyan in his turn noted that at least a year should pass to analyze positive tendencies and gaps in the sector.

"However, no one has complained of food quality yet. And passing parcels to the penitentiary facilities stems from our national mentality. Banning it by law may cause worse consequences. Anyway, I don’t want to link parcels with poor quality of food," Sahakyan summed up.

Lilit Arakelyan, Media Center Project Editor/Coordinator

To contact the author, please emailher: [email protected]


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