Public control wanting over penal institutions

According to the head of Donetsk Memorial Oleksandr Bukalov, there is virtually no public control over penal institutions, and what is being seen is a mere imitation of protection of prisoners’ rights.

At present legislation envisages only one mechanism for such control, this being the work of supervisory commissions, yet these work in a largely formal manner with members normally being employees of state bodies, roped in for extra duties, which they carry out without any great motivation.

Mr Bukalov stresses that public control is about representatives of civic society being able to check what goes on and the conditions in closed institutions, and to make public their findings.

At present it is difficult for the public to obtain such information. Formal information requests from Donetsk Memorial have received responses like "explain why you want the information?" and "send us your articles of association". Officials in some regions have actually asked human rights groups to tell them what the supervisory commissions are.

As for the reasons for the lack of public control, the first is that the legislative and financial conditions for such control have not been provided.  There is no clear stipulation of who is entitled to carry out such control.

Another major problem is that there is little awareness in society or among the staff of penal institutions of the need for such control.  

Mr Bukalov believes that the State Department for the Execution of Sentences is happy with control being merely declared, and not carried out. The Department prefers an imitation of control which is effectively a way of deceiving society and foreign institutions wanting to know what is happening in Ukraine’s penal system.   Mr Bukalov stresses the need for more discussion in society of ways of creating public control in penal institutions.

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