ARCT lobbying in the Albanian Parliament for the legislative amendments on the Law for the Treatment of the Detainees

On March 1st, 2014 the Parliamentary Commission will discuss the input of the interested parties to the Law on the Treatment of the persons in conflict with the law.

ARCT is invited to share the opinion and recommendations presented and discussed with the General Prisons Directorat and the Ministry of Justice.

During monitoring process, ARCT has always put a great emphasis in the different categories of persons with special needs: women, juvenile, mentally ill, chronic and terminal patients/inmates and older inmates over 65 years of age.

We are currently working on preparing specific Guidelines which will be launched within 2013, and reflect the basic international principles for the treatment of people deprived of their liberties.

As there are few amendments proposed to these special categories, the ARCT’ main focus will be on the “Rights of women offenders and prisoners”.

Historically, prisons and prison regimes have almost invariably been designed for the majority male prison population – from the architecture of prisons, to security procedures, to healthcare, family contact, work and training.

Today, special emphasis is paid to the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (‘the Bangkok Rules’), adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2010, and used to fill a long-standing lack of standards providing for the specific characteristics and needs of women offenders and prisoners. This set of Rules give guidance to policy makers, legislators, sentencing authorities and prison staff to reduce the imprisonment of women, and to meet the specific needs of women in case of imprisonment. The Rules are crucial to protecting the rights of women offenders and prisoners, explicitly addressing the different needs that women have and the different situations they come from. The Bangkok Rules are also the first international instrument to address the needs of children in prison with their parent.

ARCT considered that these current developments and amendments are calling for attention in adopting a special approach towards human treatment of women and female juvenile offenders in places of deprivation of liberties:

The Current Law on the rights and treatment of persons in detention does include few provisions with regards to the needs of women in detention, without properly addressing the legislative, administrative and institutional developments. It is the right moment that these categories of persons with special needs should be properly addressed and taken in consideration.

We call for special attention and referral to the Law No. 10221 dated 4.2.2010 “On protection from discrimination”, as a basic piece of legislation to be implemented, with regards to the definition” “Discrimination” is every distinction, exclusion, limitation or preference because of any cause mentioned in article 1 of this law that has as a purpose or consequence the hindering or making impossible the exercise, in the same manner as with others, of the fundamental rights and freedoms recognised by the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, with international acts ratified by the Republic of Albania as well as with the laws in force”. 

In order to recognize the special needs for the women and girls-offenders, ARCT is recommending including a special article with regards the “prohibition of the violence against women”:

“Violence against women means  any act of gender-based violence resulting in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life is absolutely prohibited and punished according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania.

Special training and guidelines shall be foreseen for the penitentiary staff working in the facilities dedicated to imprison women and juveniles”.

Women prisoners who report abuse shall be provided immediate protection, support and counselling, and their claims shall be investigated by competent and independent authorities, with full respect for the principle of confidentiality. Protection measures shall take into account specifically the risks of retaliation”

With regards to the Admission procedures, we propose the following:

“Adequate attention shall be paid to the admission procedures for women and children, due to their particular vulnerability at this time. Newly arrived women prisoners shall be provided with facilities to contact their relatives; access to legal advice; information about prison rules and regulations, the prison regime and where to seek help when in need in a language that they understand; and, in the case of foreign nationals, access to consular representatives as well.

Prior to or on admission, women with caretaking responsibilities for children shall be permitted to make arrangements for those children, including the possibility of a reasonable suspension of detention, taking into account the best interests of the children”.

With regards to health care of women prisoners, we propose the following:

“The health screening of women prisoners shall include comprehensive screening to determine primary health-care needs, and also shall determine:

(a)          The presence of sexually transmitted diseases or blood-borne diseases; and, depending on risk factors, women prisoners may also be offered testing for HIV, with pre- and post-test counselling;

(b)          Mental health-care needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder and risk of suicide and self-harm;

(c)           The reproductive health history of the woman prisoner, including current or recent pregnancies, childbirth and any related reproductive health issues;

(d)          The existence of drug dependency;

(e)          Sexual abuse and other forms of violence that may have been suffered prior to admission.”

A special article should be dedicated to the juvenile female prisoners:

”Juvenile female prisoners shall have access to age- and gender-specific programs and services, such as counseling for sexual abuse or violence.

 They shall receive education on women’s health care and have regular access to gynecologists, similar to adult female prisoners” 

With regards to Safety and Security, we propose:

Women prisoners’ dignity and respect shall be ensured during personal searches, which shall only be carried out by women staff who have been properly trained in appropriate searching methods and in accordance with established procedures.

Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches”.

With regards to Disciplinary measures and punishment, we propose:

Disciplinary sanctions for women prisoners shall not include a prohibition of family contact, especially with children”.

With regards to information and Awareness, we propose:

”All staff assigned to work with women prisoners shall receive training relating to the gender-specific needs and human rights of women prisoners.

Basic training shall be provided for prison staff working in women’s prisons on the main issues relating to women’s health, in addition to first aid and basic medicine.

Where children are allowed to stay with their mothers in prison, awareness-raising on child development and basic training on the health care of children shall also be provided to prison staff, in order for them to respond appropriately in times of need and emergencies”.

With regards to Classification and distribution of the prisoners:

”The gender-sensitive risk assessment and classification of prisoners shall ensure that women’s sentence plans include rehabilitative programs and services that match their gender-specific needs”.

With regards to Post- release and Rehabilitation programs:

”Prison authorities, in cooperation with probation and/or social welfare services, local community groups and non-governmental organizations, shall design and implement comprehensive pre- and post-release reintegration programs which take into account the gender-specific needs of women”.

Taking in consideration that women prisoners come from different religious and cultural backgrounds, the prisons authorities should also consider their distinctive needs in their access to gender- and culture-relevant programs and services. This component might diminish the discriminatory behaviors that women prisoner might face. Accordingly, prison authorities shall provide comprehensive programs and services that address these needs, in consultation with women prisoners themselves and the relevant groups.