Support to Prison Reform in Kyrgyzstan
Joint EU / UNODC project assists Government in improvement of penitentiary system

Public Hearing of the draft National Strategy of Penitentiary System Development of the Kyrgyz Republic for the period of 2011-2015 "Umut-2" was conducted on December 16-17. The event was organized by the UNODC Programme Office in the Kyrgyz Republic, the European Union, the State Service of Execution of Punishment and the Kyrgyz National University within the framework of the EU and UNODC project "Support to Prison Reform in the Kyrgyz Republic". Within two days, participants reviewed and discussed a wide range of issues, including results of implementation of the National Program on Penitentiary System Reform of the Kyrgyz Republic until 2010, "Umut". They also assessed current situation, identified challenges, discussed living conditions for prisoners and their compliance with international standards, including medical service provision in penal system; possibilities of cooperation with international, governmental and religious organizations as well as mass media. Participants discussed perspectives for development of small scale income generating activities and vocational training for prisoners as part of their social rehabilitation. The main objective of the hearing was to make the process of prison reform strategy development over the next five years transparent and inclusive. Participants emphasized importance of close co-operation between  different stakeholders from state structures and civil society. Mr. Sheyshenbek Baizakov, Chairperson of the State Service of Execution of Punishment under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic noted: "It is very critical to include suggestions from all partners, both government agencies and civil society representatives, at the early stage of strategy development of penitentiary system of Kyrgyzstan. This will allow us to develop a well balanced and comprehensive national development strategy for the prison system which meets international standards". The prison system of Kyrgyzstan faces many of the challenges, which include very poor material conditions, difficulties faced in separating and controlling the prison population, inadequate use of alternatives to imprisonment, breakdown of prison industries and lack of professional prison staff training which corresponds to the needs of modern civil prison system. During the year of 2010, prison reform discussion was enhanced through launching and drafting of prison reform strategy and policy, as well as through the revision  of criminal legislation related to penal reform and alternatives to imprisonment. Senior prison management and general staff had an opportunity to improve  their professional skills through a comprehensive training sessions on prison  management practices. Specific needs and priorities for the refurbishment programme to improve prison sanitary infrastructure were identified. The Working Group on the Prison Reform was established to promote ownership, harness the commitment of key stakeholders to the proposed  reform and monitor the progress. This is the first joint prison reform project financed by the European Union and implemented by the UNODC Programme Office in Kyrgyzstan.