British horizons supports prison reforms in Armenia


On 23-27 November 2015 Civil Society Institute (CSI) with the support of the British Embassy in Yerevan in the frames of the British Horizons Initiative invited an expert in prison management Philip John Taylor OBE. Mr. Taylor has over 35 year experience working in prison system.

The main purpose of inviting the expert was elaboration of tailor-made recommendations for Armenia on prison management taking into account the British experience and lessons learnt. In course of his visit, Mr. Taylor met with the Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia Mr. Souren Krmoyan, representatives of the Penitentiary Department and representatives of civil society organizations members of the Public Monitoring Group over Penitentiary Department.

At the meeting with the representatives of the relevant units of the Penitentiary Department Mr. Taylor presented the British prison system, in particular in regard to management arrangements, including budget, organizations of catering, outsourcing some service, provision of medical assistance as well as key challenges prison administration faces in the UK, whereas the representatives of the Department spoke about the current state of affairs in the Armenian prison system and launched reforms.

Mr. Taylor also visited two prisons: “Nubarashen” and “Armavir” to study the situation on the ground. The Penitentiary department and prison administration ensured full access to penitentiary institutions, presented the working modalities, showed the infrastructure, including the healthcare, and answered to questions. Mr. Taylor observed how food was being cooked and distributed, material and cell conditions and learnt about management and workload of the staff.

At the meeting with the Public Monitoring Group the participants discussed existing models of work of similar structures in Armenia, the UK and other states, as well as spoke about existing challenges in the Armenian prison system.

In addition, Mr. Taylor delivered a public lecture at the American University of Armenia on “Human Rights: How can prisons contribute?” The lecture was well attended by students and representatives of local human rights NGOs. Q&A session was very active and allowed the attendees to learn more about the British prison system. Mr. Taylor spoke at Boon TV at a “talk” interview format. He presented the reforms carried out in the British prison system and successful initiatives.

On 27 November CSI with the support of the British Embassy Yerevan and Penal Reform International in the frames of the UNDEF funded project organized a round table on “Impact of gradual change of isolation regime for inmates on early conditional release in Armenia”. Mr.Taylor presented the British experience on classification of prisoners and their preparation to release. He emphasized that the prison authorities while enforcing a prison sentence had primarily two objectives: to ensure order and compliance of inmates with the prison regime as well we public safety. He emphasized that in order to ensure public safety prison authorities had to do their best to rehabilitate inmates to reduce reoffending rate and facilitate reintegration of offenders into society.

At the end of the visit Mr. Taylor and CSI Director Arman Danielyan met with the Deputy Minister. The expert shared with some of his observations and came up with initial recommendations on a number of issues of concern, including prison management, catering, medical assistance, overcrowding, etc. Mr. Taylor will produce a report with more detailed recommendations which will be shared with relevant stakeholders.

“The visit is very timely as the MoJ is developing a new Penitentiary Code at the moment. Learning more about both best practice experience of other states and lessons learnt is very helpful to ensure that Armenian prisons comply with international standards. We expect the expert to come up with a number of recommendations on how to improve the situation in the Armenian prisons to ensure compliance with international human rights standards”,- noted Arman Danielyan, CSI Director.

Public lecture at the American University of Armenia.

Meeting at the Penitentiary Department under the Ministry of Justice.

Round table on the topic “Impact of gradual change of isolation regime for inmates on early conditional release in Armenia”.