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Prisoners Report that Restrictions on Phone Calls Were Cancelled


Lana Giorgidze

Inmates of several penitentiary establishments reported Human Rights Center that from January 2017, the prison administrations canceled the restrictions on the phone calls both in high-risk and low-risk facilities. The convicts say the decision was made after Human Rights Center disseminated statement about the problem.

On December 15, 2016, lawyers of Human Rights Center held press-conference about the restricted right of the convicts to make phone calls and noted that administrations of high-risk prisons introduced limits for the convicts. They could call only on the previously agreed 10 numbers. In the high risk facilities the restrictions were stricter and the inmates could call only 5 numbers. Consequently, the prisoners could not communicate their lawyers and majority of their relatives. 

In response to the press-conference, representatives of the penitentiary ministry, among them the Minister denied the information about restrictions in low risk facilities, as for the high risk facilities, they said it was regulated by the national legislation that is necessary for security means. 

Lawyer of Human Rights Center Eka Lomidze said after the organization disseminated the statement, in January 2017 the prisoners called the organization and informed the lawyers that the restrictions were cancelled. 

“On December 28, 2016, inmate of the prison # 16 G.E tried to communicate Human Rights Center, who had received the decision of the enforcement body. He had concrete deadline to enforce the decision, otherwise his property was to be sold on the auction. He could not contact Human Rights Center because the number of the organization was not on the preliminarily elaborated list. Only his wife could call us who informed that because of the internal regulations the rights of the prisoner were breached. Having received the information, we contacted the public relations unit of the penitentiary establishment and their representative clarified that the prisoner did not have communication rights restricted and he could easily change the phone number; but I responded that it was false information. One hour later they called me back and said they would allow G.E. to add my phone number on his list,” lawyer Eka Lomidze told humanrights.ge. 

Eka Lomidze added that it was very good that the statement of Human Rights Center had positive outcome but permanent control is necessary so that communication restrictions were not resumed in future that may violate fundamental rights of the convicts.

Humanrights.ge inquired whether the restrictions were cancelled temporarily because of new year and Christmas holidays. Public relations department of the Ministry of Corrections reported that the restrictions did not exist in reality and it was impossible to cancel what did not exist. As they informed, the use of communication means is regulated by the Prison Code and not by internal regulations.

Deputy minister of corrections Zviad Mikhanashvili responded to the statement of Human Rights Center in December 2016 and said that he does not agree with the allegation that it breached the rights of convicts. He said the prisoners can communicate people outside the facility without restrictions. 

Mikhanashvili said one of their priorities is to promote rehabilitation-resocialization of prisoners.

“One of the main priorities of the ministry is to promote rehabilitation-resocialization of the convicts. We believe the inmates of penitentiary establishments shall maintain contact with the outside world. We permanently follow and fulfil the recommendations of the NGOs and Public Defender. For that purpose, we elaborated the timetable considering the interests of the convicts. They can call family members and desirable persons at a low price. Also, the prisoners can call the hotline of the Public Defender’s office for free and inform them about possible violations. I cannot agree with the allegation that the Ministry violates the rights of prisoners, because they can make calls without restrictions,” Zviad Mikhanashvili told Interpresnews.

Although the Ministry denied the information about restricted communication rights, the prisoners share different information with the civil society. Considering that, Human Rights Center continues monitoring situation in the prisons. 
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