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The Prison Study Centre

In December 2012, at the initiative of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, the LEPL Penitentiary and Probation Training Centre (PPTC) and the Faculty of Law of Tbilisi State University, a non-profit legal entity called the Prison Study Centre was established. It unites scientists and practitioners working in the fields of penitentiaries and probation.

The Head of The Prison Study Centre and Legal Department of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Giorgi Goradze, said, “A prison is a closed system and society often has no information about prisons. People usually think that a convict should be strictly punished, and most people in society don’t wish to contribute to the re-socialization of a convict.  With the help of scientific research it will be possible to study the prison problems and prepare recommendations for the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance.  This should contribute to improving the situation of convicts and their rights.”

The aims of the Prison Study Centre are to assess the conditions of confinement centers; assess the non-prison penitentiary system; assess prisoners’ personality by testing; support prisoners’ and their families’ rights, prepare recommendations based on research and statistics to the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance that will enable them to reach management quality in line with international standards.

To ensure that a person released from the penitentiary system will feel like a citizen with all rights, representatives of the Prison Study Centre believe that it is essential to carry out in-depth research in order to provide substantiated recommendations to relevant agencies.  Studying international standards for penitentiary systems and the experiences of foreign countries will enable their implementation in Georgia.  Practical lectures and seminars in penitentiary and penal institutions will improve the understanding of the important role they play while supporting best practices in Georgia will also raise the level of professionalism.  The Center will also organize scientific conferences and lecture-seminars, engaging students in their activities and organize joint research projects with foreign state agencies.

Currently the center is implementing two projects. With the support of Penal Reform International, the first project will provide criminological analysis of criteria for early conditional release. The Center will disseminate the results to concerned agencies directly engaged in considering early conditional releases.  A second project, ‘Inquiries into Prisoners’ Suicides’ is being implemented at the initiative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). The research will determine risk factors that influence or induce prisoners towards committing a suicide. 

Moris Shalikashvili, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of TSU pointed out that it is well known in criminology that prisoners are one of the most at-risk groups for suicide. This stems from the psychological problems caused by confinement. Some of the prisoners find it very hard to deal with imprisonment, which leads to suicide.  Another reason for suicide can be the constant physical and psychological pressure from other convicts or from correctional personnel.  In such cases, a prisoner considers a suicide as the only way to solve the problem. 

Parallel to local projects, the Prison Study Centre cooperates with the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology of the Faculty of Law of the Maastricht University in a global project to establish an international research network and implement international research projects.  The TSU Faculty of Law plans to establish a clinic at the Prison Study Centre, which will function as one of the practical components of an MA program. Each year, MA students of the clinic will be able to carry out an internship within Georgian penal institutions.   The clinic will raise student interest in the field of penal institutions, which will not only provide potential future employment possibilities, but also provide qualified staff for the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance.

Professor Shalikashvili explained that the Prison Study Centre will probably not have a direct impact on the transformation of the penitentiary system but it will contribute to the establishment of a European style system in Georgia. This will be a step forward for improving living conditions in prisons and reducing violence from correctional personnel.