Around the world, including in Georgia, penitentiary institutions are one of the most important systems. Every state has its attitude towards them, which includes different rules of the prison management, the labor rights of its employees, the treatment of detainees, etc. However, the goal of the sentence – re-socialization / rehabilitation of a prisoner, prevention of re-offending (avoidance of recidivism), and adherence to law and order should be common for all states.Precisely, a key role in achieving this goal lies with the staff of the penitentiary institutions. Their labor relations require special attention and support of the state and society. They are responsible for the physical and mental health of prisoners, their safety, the development and implementation of rehabilitation and re-socialization programs, etc. This is an incomplete list of the competencies of employees of the penitentiary institutions. Therefore, it should be a priority to take care of the physical and mental health of the staff and improving their legal status. Thus, it is clear that taking care of prison staff is directly correlated with the achievement of the goal of the sentence. Also, the labor rights of all employees in Georgia must be protected according to international standards, although both domestic law and international instruments set out specific norms considering prison staff.In this regard, there are challenges in the penitentiary system and the step forward in improving the legal status of prison staff is to properly perceive and analyze these issues and display readiness for their resolving. To see more clearly the main problems in labor relations, we will highlight the following issues: • Irregular working hours of employed staff, meaning working overtime. For clarity, according to a law prison staff works 48-hour weeks with the one-hour break, and carries out overtime work, in case of the employee’s consent and overtime pay. There is a 24-hours shift. But in practice, they have to work 29-30 hours shift per day, sometimes they have to work for a few days in a raw. Employees working in certain positions have to work overtime 8-8 hours a week, including on weekends, with no overtime pay. Most importantly, overtime work is not voluntary and implemented against the will of the employee. Other than that, they rarely enjoy the right to the one-hour break;There are no job descriptions or crisis management guidelines for staff in the penitentiary facilities. They follow the instructions of the prison director. The explanation of the duties for the employees is implemented only verbally. There have been cases where a prison officer spent 24 hours in a cell together with a prisoner at the behest of the director of the prison. It was unclear why the employee was “forced” to do so and deprived of the right to choose, and it was left under the question for him/her whether this function was written anywhere;Because of its nature/content, working in a penitentiary system, unlike working in other institutions or organizations, requires an employee to have consciousness on specifics/characteristics of the system and to have the accurate vision/assumptions and acceptability of the work in the system, of challenges that may be faced, and understanding if he/she possesses the skills to cope with them. We learn, that in practice the motivation and expectations of the staff working in the system differ from the responsibilities they carry out. As a result, the penitentiary system receives the frustrated, tense staff, facing the psycho-emotional problems, most times leaving the system, etc. Although the staff working there had gained interesting experience, they still quit the job according to either their resignation letter or against their will, believing it was very hard to work there.
Also, the influence of subculture is still strong in Georgian prisons. The so-called Watchers “control” the work of employees, meaning that they interfere in the functions of the employees and make decisions at the expense of ignoring their rights.This list of challenges is illustrative, promoting the outflow of staff from penitentiary institutions, makes the system less attractive, and hinders the process of recruitment/employment of qualified staff.
In conclusion, we can say that in the penitentiary system it is crucial to implement unified staff care policy, to develop accurate job descriptions and crisis management guidelines, to conduct public awareness campaigns on prison and its work specifics, to study the causes of informal governance and the reduction of the causing risks; to increase pay and disburse overtime pay. All this will guarantee the safety of employees and their protection from professional burnout, will attract qualified personnel and most importantly they will know exactly why they want to work in prisons, therefore they will have realistic expectations. As a result, the detainees will receive quality services contributing to the effective implementation of the goal of the sentence.