Bulgarian Prison Guards Rally against Deplorable Conditions
Bulgarian prison guards and employees are staging a protest rally in downtown Sofia Sunday.
The protest will be held at 1 pm in front of the building of the Justice Ministry, the Confederation of the Independent Syndicates in Bulgaria, KNSB, announced.
The employees demand more funding for prisons and increase of their wages and social benefits. They say their salaries have not been indexed in the last 10 years.
The trade union calls on all of its structures and members to take part in the protest and to support the said demands.
Bulgaria has received a number of sentences from the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg for the inhumane treatment of inmates and has been criticized in many international reports.
According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, BHC, the overcrowding of prisons in the largest Bulgarian cities remains a huge problem, triggering a number of human rights violations.
BHC have conducted their own study at the prisons in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas and Pleven and the so-called dorm (a minimum security facility) in Kremikovtzi, near the capital.
During the last visit of BHC at the Burgas jail, 866 inmates were housed there, while the facility has a capacity of 371 – or 40 beds in a cell with an area of 55 square meters; beds were often piled one on top of the other, some inmates were sleeping on the floor on mats; there were no WCs inside and buckets were used instead.
BHC established similar conditions in the Varna jail – cells of 25 square meters with 15 inmates, poor lighting, dirt, and overall miserable atmosphere.
The Committee stresses that despite their numerous alarms and calls for improvement as this latest one, and all cabinets in the last 20 years agreeing that the country's prisons are in a terrible shape, nothing had been done - the system had been somewhat modernized, but just on the legislative side and there were scarce partial repairs at some facilities.
On November 25, 2011, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) published its recommendations for a number of countries, including Bulgaria, where the latter is strongly criticized over the still existing torture and humiliation, bad conditions in holding cells and prisons, the overuse of isolation as punishment in jails, and for those with life sentences, etc.
On November 14, 2011, Bulgaria's Justice Ministry announced it had prepared a Bill for Amendments to the Punishments and Arrests Act that relieve the State from obligations to finance important activities at penitentiaries, and postpone for another five years the introduction of mandatory 4 square meters of living space per inmate.
BHC point out these amendments are violations of prisoners' rights.
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