While there have been improvements in recent years, criminal justice policy in Central Asia remains punitive.
Central Asian states have much larger prison populations than other European countries with similar populations. Due to high prison populations, many prisons have become significantly overcrowded and conditions worsen and prisons systems are left without adequate resources or training to respond.
Central Asian prisons still carry echoes of the Gulag regimes of Soviet prison management. Yet, they are also influenced by contemporary Russian penitentiary systems which employ harsh punitive approaches to manage defendants and people in prisons.
In some countries accessing information about prison populations can be challenging. In Turkmenistan, for example, prison statistics have not been updated for decades, and many people in prisons seem to ‘disappear’ and remain missing from official record.
PRI has been working in the Central Asia region since 2001. The Central Asia programme is based in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. We work in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Current work focuses on legislative reform in Kazakhstan, torture prevention, improving independent public oversight of places of detention and supporting the reintegration of people in prison into society. We are also involved in countering violent extremism and radicalisation in prisons.