The head of the Main Directorate for the Execution of Criminal Sentences of the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan ‘opened doors’ of all Tajik prisons and showed everything that happens there.     

The first penitentiary forum of Tajikistan took place in Dushanbe on November 20.  .

Organized at the initiative of the Main Directorate for the Execution of the Criminal Sentences of the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan and the Penal Reform International (PRI) under support of the European Union Delegation to Tajikistan, the United Kingdom Embassy in Dushanbe, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe, UNODC and OHCHR, the forum focused on analyzing the current situation in the prison system of Tajikistan.  Recommendations were developed during the event on the establishment of a probation institution and the application of alternative measures not related to the deprivation of liberty, the prevention of radicalization in closed institutions and the work with prisoners for crimes of a terrorist nature and extremist orientation, as well as the re-socialization and reintegration of prisoners into society.

The head of PRI’s office for Central Asia, Azamat Shambilov.

Until recently, Tajikistan’s penitentiary system was the most closed prison system for the public and media in the Central Asian region, Azamat Shambilov, the head of Penal Reform International's office for Central Asia, told Asia-Plus in an interview.  

According to him, the situation began changing only in 2017.  “We have managed to visit several prisons, study the situation, launched rehabilitation and educational programs, and signed a memorandum of cooperation,” Shambilov said.   

“We have not yet studied prisons located in remote regions, but this is a matter of the near future,” the human rights activist noted.  

He noted that prisons and penal colonies were overcrowded and pointed to the necessity of improving the prison infrastructure.   

According to him, one of major issues of the Tajik prisons is the lack of separate cells.  Prisoners are being held in large groups in big barracks.  Shambilov called it a “legacy of the Soviet system.”  Tajikistan should introduce the system of separate prison cells, the activist said.  

He pointed to the necessity of creating a rehabilitation regime. 

“In my opinion, the most important thing has been done – the government has initiated a large-scale reform with a focus on the social component of the execution of punishment, institution of probation and alternative types of punishment not related to imprisonment.     

Shambilov also said that prisons in Tajikistan and elsewhere in Central Asia need to work out special programs for prisoners convicted on terrorism and extremism-related charges to rehabilitate them.

The conditions of detention do not yet fully meet the minimum standards of treatment of prisoners, he noted.  

According to Shambilov, significant changes have been made in financing of Tajikistan’s penitentiary system over the past twelve month.  A special focus was reportedly made on improvement of nutrition and detention conditions.  

“As far as torture and ill-treatment in Tajik prisons are concerned, I can give an unambiguous conclusion – no torture in prisons now,” the head of PRI’s office for Central Asia said.   

It is to be noted that in the framework of the ongoing projects in Tajikistan, Penal Reform International launched rehabilitation programs in women and children colonies, which provided psychological and social support to offenders.  Besides, technical support was provided to the working group on amendments to the Criminal Executive Code of Tajikistan, as well as training of prison system staff and the creation of a new rehabilitation center in the children’s colony.