In a new report on the state of prisons in Tajikistan, the Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) has criticized the prison conditions.  The main problems highlighted were the overcrowding of prisons, diseases, and high mortality rates among prisoners.


Overcrowding by 600 people

The 2023 report, which also covers the previous year, identifies that one of the major issues in the country's detention centers and prisons is holding inmates beyond the established limits.

"Such a situation leads to violations of the legal requirements that set the standard sanitary area per convict," the report states.

According to Tajik law, the living space norm for each prisoner should be four square meters.  However, inspections revealed breaches of this law.  In 2023, an inspection showed that the correctional facility YaS 3/4 housed 300 more people than its capacity.  In YaS 3/7, there were 162 more inmates than the limit, and in YaS 3/3, the excess was 136 inmates.

As of January 1, 2024, there are 13,556 convicts and 1,355 suspects, accused, and defendants in correctional institutions.  Among them are 14,466 men, 455 women, 134 minors, and 244 foreign citizens.  In addition to overcrowding, inspections and monitoring revealed a lack of repairs to buildings and common areas, a lack of signs informing prisoners of their rights, problems with engaging prisoners in work, and other issues.


Diseases and deaths

The Ombudsman's report states that currently, 350 prisoners in the country's prisons are infected with HIV, and more than 100 have tuberculosis.  In 2023, 53 prisoners died in custody (compared to 61 in 2022).  The main causes of death are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.  The report notes that the number of deaths is concerning.


Prison labor

Prisoners have a constitutional right to work and can receive certain monetary compensation for it.  However, the report identifies significant shortcomings in this area.  As of January 1, 2024, only 1,270 prisoners were engaged in paid labor, with 661 in production and 609 in maintenance.  In penal settlement institutions, 2,623 people were employed in paid labor.  The report notes that the wages earned by working prisoners are set at the minimum wage level, with deductions made for accommodation, food, and utilities, negatively impacting their future lives.  It also states that the limited production base in correctional institutions does not consider the prisoners' specialties when assigning work. However, "incentives are applied to individuals exhibiting exemplary behavior in correctional institutions," the report states.


Complaints from prisoners and their relatives

In 2023, the Ombudsman’s office received 20 written complaints from prisoners and their relatives.  These complaints included disagreements with investigation results and court rulings, allegations of beatings, requests for placement in medical institutions, pleas for release, and requests for amnesty. There is no data available for 2024.


Recommendations by the Ombudsman

To further improve the situation in closed and semi-closed correctional institutions, the Tajikistan Ombudsman's Office recommends:


  • Raising the legal literacy levels of prisoners, correctional staff, and law enforcement officials;
  • Installing surveillance cameras in necessary locations;’
  • Taking measures to engage prisoners in work, including arranging employment contracts outside the correctional facilities with various organizations and agencies;
  • Strengthening the production base of correctional institutions;
  • Providing jobs for individuals released from prisons;
  • More frequent application of conditional early release incentives.