Justice Minister: Prisons Not Overcrowded, Minimum Standards Ensured
March 14 (BTA) - Prisons are not overcrowded and the
minimum standards for inmates have been ensured everywhere, said
here Thursday Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva during a
hearing in Parliament about prison conditions and government
Tsacheva said that major renovations were done in the past two
years in the prisons in Bourgas, Varna and Sliven. Renovations
are scheduled for completion in the prisons in Pazardzhik, Bobov
Dol and the Cherna Gora facility with the Stara Zagora prison.
The Justice Ministry is searching for a suitable site for
building a new modern prison with a capacity to hold 400 inmates
and a new training centre for 100 employees.
The Minister noted that prison conditions have improved as a
result of the policies, but there are also problems, mainly
connected with the two jails in Sofia and the Sofia City Prison.
She said that these are old buildings and temporary fixes
cannot achieve the desired long-term effect. The buildings are
in need of major renovation, but that cannot be done because
there isn't a place these inmates can be accommodated
temporarily. The problem is the same with the jails, she said.
In parallel with improving the prison conditions, the Justice
Ministry is working on improving the working conditions and pay
of prison staff, she went on to say. The wage increase for
prison staff in 2017, 2018 and 2019 adds up to around 35 per
cent. Tsacheva said that an additional 200 jobs have been opened
in the prison system.
The Justice Minister explained that the electronic monitoring
bracelets for inmates have already been ordered. The staff is
yet to be trained on how to work with this system. Tsacheva
explained that an initial order for 250 bracelets has been
placed, which will be used to monitor prisoners working on
external sites, those under house arrest or on probation.
Answering a question, Tsacheva said that trainings are being
organized for inmates to acquire vocational skills, such as
construction worker, welder, carpenter, cooking, etc.
The US Department of State's recently published human rights
country report's section on Bulgaria lists as main human rights
issues the physical mistreatment of detainees and convicts by
officials; harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities.