UNODC expert: “Strong family ties are good for the mental health of prisoners and help them prepare for their return to the community”
On 15 August 2018, the State Prison Service of the Kyrgyz Republic opened a new entrance facility in prison 47, the main prison in the capital city Bishkek. As part of the new facility, which was established in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and with funding provided by the Government of Japan, the Prison Service also inaugurated a refurbished room for prison visits by family and friends.
“When prisoners regularly see their family and friends, this can have a positive impact on their psychological health and motivate them to desist from future offending”, said Koen Marquering, Acting Head of UNODC in the Kyrgyz Republic. “It is important to help prisoners maintain, or re-establish, contact with their family during their time in custody.”
Prison 47 was first built in 1945 and currently accommodates approximately 800 offenders. There is also a newly established wing for violent extremist prisoners in the prison where UNODC and the Government of Japan have supported the Prison Service to improve security management and implement social rehabilitation programs.
Cell blocks holding violent extremist prisoners were equipped with video surveillance, portable radios and secure doors. Office furniture was provided, and air-conditioning installed for prison staff. Sports equipment was procured for the prisoners. Workshops were created to engage prisoners in the manufacturing of leather and felt products.
“Before we did everything by hand. Now our security system is automated, which makes it easier for our staff to do their job and manage the prison”, said Mirzabek Adilbekov, Deputy Chairman of the Prison Service. “In addition to the new room for family visits, new office space has been created for our psychologist and social worker. This is important for our rehabilitation work with prisoners.”
As custodian of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (i.e. the Nelson Mandela Rules), UNODC provides technical assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic in the field of penal reform. With support from the Government of Japan, UNODC also assists national authorities to implement the 2017-2022 State Program to Counter Extremism and Terrorism.
Efforts to reduce vulnerability to violent extremism will continue during the upcoming period within the framework of a new joint United Nations initiative funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, as part of which UNODC supports measures to prevent radicalization to violence in prisons and improve
the governance of the penitentiary system and probation services to manage violent extremist offenders.
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