Today, on July 8, at the International Online Forum “The Penitentiary System in the New Reality”, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, human rights defenders, lawyers, and international experts discussed the existing system of execution of sentences and prospects for its further development.
The forum chaired by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lieutenant General of the Police, Mr Yerlan Turgumbayev, was attended by about 150 people: representatives of state bodies, national experts in the field of human rights, as well as heads of diplomatic missions and international organizations from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Russia, India, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, and Belarus.
The Minister noted the effectiveness of this platform and highlighted that the Forum held in 2019 jointly with Penal Reform International in Central Asia laid the foundation for such a broad dialogue. A number of national laws aimed at improving the legal status of people convicted of an offence and detention conditions were amended based on the recommendations made by the public during the first Forum held back in 2019.
The Minister noted that these meetings in the format of a dialogue are to be held annually from now on. Yerlan Turgumbayev also highlighted that the main priorities of all reforms are to ensure the observance of human rights, improve the conditions of detention, and bring the penitentiary system in line with international standards. So in January last year, amendments were made to the criminal procedure legislation (15 amendments to three codes and 14 amendments to three departmental regulations).
The procedure for transferring someone to the prison has been simplified; restrictions on the transfer of drugs have been lifted; terms for consideration of applications for sick leave have been reduced; and the right to send applications electronically has been granted. The number of visits has also been increased by two days throughout the year.
As the Minister mentioned, it is proposed to extend the period that a child may stay with their mother in prison beyond three years of age in cases where the mother is due for release within a year, as well as to consider the possibility of ensuring the separation of people with previous convictions from those newly convicted and others.
Also, according to the new Decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, adopted in February 2021, the nutrition standards were increased almost 40 per cent per person, the weight of parcels and packages was increased by almost one third (from 14kg to 20kg), and the list of items that can be received in parcels, packages or purchased in prison stores was expanded.
Last year, the gradual introduction of electronic services such as “electronic stores” started in Kazakhstani penitentiary institutions. In addition, remote technical means of monitoring the probation services’ accountants are being introduced. In particular, it is supposed to use electronic bracelets in relation to those who violate the order of serving the sentence, and smartphones – to positively characterised persons.
As the Minister emphasised, another important issue is the employment of persons held in places of confinement. The number of people detained that are in employment has increased from 38 per cent last year to 49 per cent. This contributes to their adaptation in society, and also allows them to pay material damage to the victims.
Minister Turgumbayev announced the transferring of the penitentiary healthcare under the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan. After finalizing the legal framework, starting from 2023, the healthcare of people in places of detention will entirely fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. From 1 July 2022, medical services of pre-trial detention centers will be transferred. From 1 January 2023 all other facilities.
“This will allow for wider access to modern methods of medical analysis, diagnosis and treatment and will provide medical workers with independence from the administration of institutions, which in turn will eliminate the concealment of possible facts of illegal actions,” the Minister stressed.
Active work is being carried out to ensure continuous video surveillance of all penitentiary institutions. This campaign was launched as part of the implementation of the Order of the Head of State released in September last year. Continuous video surveillance will provide constant monitoring in real time, allowing to record the offences of those detained and working in penitentiary institutions, as well as to establish the causes of such situations.
Announced initiatives were supported by international experts and a proposal for an international exchange of experience was made as a result of the Forum.
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