What activities are being carried out to prevent penetration of the coronavirus disease into penitentiary institutions?

07/04/2020 Font

A number of measures aimed at preventing penetration of the coronavirus disease into penitentiary institutions have been earmarked by the decision of the Government on declaring a state of emergency. Within the scope of these measures, visits (except for video calls, in order to ensure contact with the outside world and to make sure the restriction is less interfering), receiving deliverables, parcels and packages, religious rites — taking into account the contact between people — have been prohibited, that is, the entry of other persons into penitentiary institutions has been reduced to a minimum, and this has helped minimise the possibility of penetration of COVID-19.

For this purpose, the Ministry of Justice, jointly with the Ministry of Healthcare, is also carrying out other different kinds of preventive measures. In particular:

  • Sanitary and hygienic treatment with a sanitiser is carried out in the residential areas and administrative buildings of penitentiary institutions;
  • Necessary medical examinations of persons deprived of liberty are regularly conducted, including activities for taking temperature and conducting external examination, convicts and detainees with health-related complaints immediately undergo more advanced inspection and diagnostic examination. Temperature is also taken from penitentiary officers.
  • In case of movement of persons deprived of liberty, face masks and gloves are provided to them and their accompanying staff members.
  • Persons deprived of liberty are provided with personal hygiene accessories.

Activities for raising the awareness of persons deprived of liberty, as well as officers and employees of penitentiary institutions about the symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease, as well as sanitary and hygienic measures required for not being infected are also carried out on a regular basis. For the purpose of raising awareness:

(1)    An agreement has been reached with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to develop a guideline and provide it to employees;

(2)    The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Ministry of Justice have jointly developed multilingual awareness-raising leaflets and provided them to penitentiary institutions.

(3)    An agreement has been reached with the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia, and trainings have been conducted and continue to be conducted for the medical personnel of the "Penitentiary Medical Centre" SNCO through electronic communication.

In addition, at least one cell for isolation has been set aside for each the persons deprived of liberty and with symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease at penitentiary institutions. The number of days for keeping in the quarantine department has been extended from 7 to 14 days (this is the possible number of days for detecting signs of the disease).

For the purpose of isolating potential patients, it is envisaged to urgently build a vestibule for decontamination and sanitation at the entrances of the two buildings of the "Hospital of Convicts" Penitentiary Institution of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia. Besides, it has been envisaged to allocate the buildings of the "Hospital of Convicts" Penitentiary Institution of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia (initially two, and in the worst case scenario, all the buildings) to the prisoners and patients deemed to be at a higher risk in order to keep them separated from the others. As a result of the activities carried out, the tuberculosis and narcology buildings of the "Hospital of Convicts" Penitentiary Institution of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia are fully empty and may be used exclusively as a quarantine zone for prevention of the coronavirus. Both of the two separate buildings house up to 150 beds. The Minister of Justice regularly gives instructions in order to establish strict control over implementation of the preventive measures. Besides, alongside the preventive measures being implemented at penitentiary institutions, on 2 April, attaching importance to the obligations assumed by the State for persons at penitentiary institutions to exercise the right to health maintenance, Minister Rustam Badasyan addressed the heads of law- enforcement authorities with a letter in which he recommended combining our efforts and refraining, as much as possible, from submitting motions to choose detention as a measure of restraint within the framework of the fight against the novel coronavirus within the scope of the state of emergency declared in the Republic of Armenia, based on the emergency situation.

Let us mention that from 16 March to 31 March, 18 convicts were released from punishment (1 — on the ground of severe disease, 6 — conditional early release, imprisonment of 1 convict was replaced with community service, imprisonment of 10 convicts was replaced with fully serving the punishment) and 40 persons were released from detention. After 1 April, 11 convicts were released from punishment (8 — by fully serving the punishment, 2 — on the grounds of severe disease, 1 — by amnesty), and 18 detainees — from detention.

The results of the tests conducted upon necessity for persons being kept at penitentiary institutions for the purpose of detecting the coronavirus disease during the state of emergency declared in the Republic of Armenia on the basis of the emergency situation are negative; currently, no case of coronavirus disease of any person deprived of liberty has been recorded.

Earlier, we had also informed that 5 employees of the Protection Department of “Vardashen” Penitentiary Institution of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 28 persons having had contact with them had been isolated. The employees of the mentioned Department are performing their service outside of the residential area of the Penitentiary Institution and have no contact with the detainees and convicts.

Summing up the above-mentioned, let us state that the situation at penitentiary institutions is under control and that preventive measures continue to be implemented.

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