The social rehabilitation of inmates, the implementation of new types of penalties and an independent investigation team– these are the initiatives set out by the president and the new prison minister which serve to fix the current problems that exist within Georgia's penitentiary system.
Tughushi delivers first report as a prison minister
By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, September 26
The newly appointed minister of corrections and legal assistance presented his first report on the current situation in prisons to President Saakashvili.
George Tughushi focused mainly on changes he is going to implement in the system and also mentioned that the current situation in the prisons is stable. Not a single fact of physical or verbal abuse of prisoners has taken place in recent days and inmates are being treated well.
Mikheil Saakashvili is mainly concerned about the social rehabilitation of the inmates. He wants to be sure that every single prisoner returns to society as a full member without being a threat to the community. As President revealed with George Tughushi, he is also considering the implementation of alternative ways of punishment, which will be a substitute to imprisonment. However, as the president points out, an alternative penalty system does not mean that the doors of the prison will be closed; the government will make sure that society still feels safe.
The president could not hide his gratitude to Tughushi, “I would like to thank you for accepting this post during a very dramatic moment, you have huge experience and our trust,” Saakashvili told the new minister.
The minister's new initiative was introduced to society at a special briefing held by Tughsuhi on September 25th. Tughushi announced he has the president’s full approval on creating a provisional and fully independent investigation team with a broad mandate, which means that members of the team will have the right to learn all existing or possible cases of abuse in prisons, request any necessary information or material, interview victims, witnesses and suspected perpetrators. The team will issue rapports on the work done and forward it to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation. All findings of the investigation team will be made public unless they infringe on the victims’ interest. The same team will help victims with social rehabilitation, with issuing recommendations which will be carried out by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
The provisional team shall be formed within the following 10 days and include the following members; a member from the parliamentary committee for human rights or committee of legal affairs, a minister of the penitentiary system or his authorized representative, representatives from relevant non-governmental organizations, a prosecutor and an attorney or lawyer.
International experts and consultants are also welcome to join the investigation process.
Tughushi explained that it is essential to form an investigation group, as there has been far more crimes committed in Georgian prisons than has been brought to light so far.
The new initiative had already had a recall among relevant organizations. Several NGO’s and also the ombudsman’s office have already confirmed their readiness to become involved in the investigation process. Tata Khuntsaria, acting ombudsman, confirmed in her latest interviews that their office will be fully involved in the work of the future investigation team.
However, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association is skeptical about the novelty, particularly about the format of the investigation team. Tamar Chugoshvili, head of the association told media sources, that involving members from state institutions like the ministries and the parliament will decrease the trust in the investigation group, Tughushi is highly recommended to consider an alternative format for the team.