Drugs, corruption and violence in the prisons of FYROM

Drugs, corruption and violence in the prisons of FYROM

IBNA Special Report

Skopje, May 13, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Naser Pajaziti

The study carried out in six prisons in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has proved that drugs can be found behind bars, while corruption and bribery is present. The inmates have claimed that they feel safer in their cells than in the corridors or the prison courts.

The study has been conducted by a team of professionals by the Center for Security in Skopje, which has identified the negative phenomena in the prisons of the country. Over 40% of inmates have claimed that narcotics can be bought inside prisons. Over 46% have said that the drugs can be easily bought through inmates, who are part of an organized network.

“There are particular networks that operate within prisons. They manage to be supplied with narcotic substances coming from outside these premises. This is realized in a perfect way, but we don’t know how drugs enter prisons. What matters is that there’s plenty of drugs and we know where to look for it and get hold of it. I know that prison guards and other prison employees are aware of this, but they keep quiet. Perhaps this is how business functions”, says an inmate involved in the study.

As far as security in prisons is concerned, 60% have said that they feel safe in their cells, while 40% don’t feel safe in all the premises of the prison.

Inmates feel most secure in the prison of Manastir (Bitola), while they feel less secure in the prison of Shtip. Even in the biggest prison of Idriziva in Skopje, there’s no big security-say prisoners.

Another phenomenon present in these prisons is violence between inmates. Around 26% of respondents have claimed that they’ve participated in beatings and violence between them.

“In case we feel intimidated or endangered by possible or sudden attacks, threats and other forms of violence by inmates. This is a phenomenon which is present and consists on a danger for every inmate and we know that we have all kinds of people convicted of different offenses”, says A.M, an inmate which for reasons of safety doesn’t reveal his name.

Inmates also reveal the presence of corruption and bribery in the prisons of the country. They mainly offer money or different rewards for the prison authorities, starting with guards to benefit advantages, food, medical checks outside prison or days of leave.

Over 26% of respondents have said that they have given money or other forms of rewards to benefit different forms of temporary freedom or some other advantage.

Dragana Batic, professor of the Security Center in Skopje, which is part of the project has stressed for IBNA that these phenomena create a catastrophic image about the images of the country.

“There must be urgent measures to implement programs and strategies for the prevention of violence, prevention of corruption and the strengthening of the feeling of security among inmates”, says professor Batic.

According to her, prisons in the country may not be modern or meet the standards of the EU member countries prisons, but nevertheless, better and safer conditions can be offered.

Ministry of Justice: Maximum efforts to prevent negative phenomena

Ministry of Justice, which has authority over the prisons of the country says that maximum efforts are being made to improve the situation of prisons.

“We have made constant investments and we have applied programs to improve the situation in prisons. So far, 52 million Euros have been invested for the reconstruction of old prisons and the construction of new prisons. Recently, there’s been the construction of the Kumanovo prison”, told IBNA the minister of Justice, Blerim Bexheti.

International organizations report miserable conditions

International organizations and institutions, appeal every year in their reports for the improvement of the situation in prisons and prevention of negative phenomena.

European organization “Committee for the Prevention of Torture” (CPT) has reported on the serious situation in the prisons of the countries.

“Macedonia is taking measures for the improvement of situation in prisons based on the recommendations of the European Council. Nevertheless, there must be radical measures to achieve the desired results”, says James McManus, head of CPT.

As far as the reports which have been published are concerned and which relate to the phenomena present in prisons, minister Bexheti says work is being done to prevent them. “As a ministry, we make maximum efforts to prevent these irregularities and negative phenomena. We believe that we will succeed and improve the situation in the prisons of the country”, says for IBNA, minister of Justice, Blerim Bexheti.

According to the statistics of this ministry, in 2013, the prisons of the country had 10 thousand inmates, out of which 8500 are male.

Low representation of Albanian employees in prisons is a problem

Albanians are little represented or employed in the prisons of the country from the position of the guard up to commanders or their replacements in the prisons of the country. This issue has also sparked political debates, because the plan for the representation of the Albanian employees in prisons.

Prison of Idrizova has 33 Albanians out of 257 employees, or 12,8%. In the prison of Shutka, there are 19 Albanians out of 122 employees or 15% of the total. In Ohrid, there are 3 Albanians or 8% of the total number. Meanwhile, in Manastir, there are 4 Albanian employees or 7,7%. In the other 5 prisons of Eastern Macedonia, there are no Albanian employees. In total, there 12,7% Albanian employees in the prisons of the country as opposed to 84,7% of Macedonian employees. This figure is far from the principle of fair and adequate representation of ethnic communities, like the Constitution of the country guarantees it. /ibna/