Through the lens: life in a Kyrgyz prison
8 June 2012 - As of January 2012, there were over 9,800 prisoners in Kyrgyzstan, including 2,000 held in pretrial detention facilities. The Kyrgyz prison service faces many challenges, including poor facilities, buildings in disrepair and a lack of professional training for prison staff. The prison service is severely underfunded, while poor pay and dangerous working conditions make it difficult to attract qualified staff. In addition, the scarcity of pretrial detention centres in some regions leads to overcrowding in prisons.
On a visit to Kyrgyzstan , renowned photojournalist Alessandro Scotti captured the daily reality of prisoners and prison staff in a unique series of photographs.
UNODC, with funding from the European Union, is working on a three-year project (2010-2012) to assist the Government of Kyrgyzstan in strengthening the rule of law by improving the prison system. The project includes measures aimed at developing a legislative framework for alternatives to imprisonment, better control of the prison population and strengthening the management capacity of the prison service.
Other objectives are the development of income-generating activities for prisoners; promoting their social reintegration after prison; and support for prison reform policies and strategies to ensure that prisons are managed according to United Nations standards and norms.
To date, a number of activities have been successfully completed: a national strategy for prison reform in Kyrgyzstan for 2012-2016 was adopted in May; 210 prison staff have been trained; and the upgrading of sanitary conditions in four prisons is under way. The prison refurbishment programme will foster a positive environment to benefit the mental health of both staff and prisoners, increase staff morale and promote prisoner rehabilitation.
Conditions in many of the world's prisons fall far below minimum international standards, posing major humanitarian, public health and security challenges. As an essential part of its work in criminal justice reform, UNODC supports Member States in prison reform activities, including by helping to improve legal safeguards for prisoners; introducing alternatives to pretrial detention and imprisonment; and enabling social reintegration.