Lithuania Continues to Infringe Prisoners’ Rights

July 24, 2019

Following its 2018 visit to Lithuanian prison facilities, the Committee Against Torture found that the state continues to infringe on the rights of prisoners.

Violence comes from both guards and other inmates

The Committee had the most to say about the Alytus, Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities, which it visited in the April 20-27 period. Chief among the Committee’s concerns were cases of extreme physical and psychological violence from the guards (such outbreaks occured even during the visit). The Committee reiterates that guards cannot respond to infractions with violence, abusing their position. According to the Committee, if force must be used, the actions of the staff must be filmed and made available for review. Currently, this is not the case in all institutions.

The Committee also reported extremely high levels of violence (including sexual abuse), intimidation and exploitation among prisoners in the prison facilities visited. Inmates still maintain informal, hierarchical subcultures in prisons. The Committee was particularly critical of the fact that the guards tolerate this violence and clearly do not do enough to keep convicts safe.

As in its previous reports, the Committee reiterated the need for additional resources for more staff (especially in prison healthcare) and training.

Prison conditions only partially satisfactory

The Committee viewed the refurbishment of the Alytus, Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities in a positive light – the prison cells met the minimum requirements for each individual and were sufficiently illuminated. However, hygiene requirements couldn’t be met in all facilities, including some of the refurbished ones, with prisoners still only being allowed one shower a week and being unable to engage in leisure activities of their choice. The Committee was particularly harsh when it came to the continued holding of prisoners in “colony-type” dorms and the stalled transition to a prison cell-based system. Overcrowded cells continue to be one of the main causes of violence among prisoners – it is esential to move to smaller, less crowded cells in the facilities.

While life prisoners are able to communicate with each other, they remain separate from other inmates. The Committee drew attention to this practice and urged the State to perform individual risk assessments when deciding whether to isolate prisoners instead of operating on prejudice.

Healthcare needs to be improved

Inmate health received a lot of attention in the report. Not only was there a general shortage of healthcare professionals, but also not all incidents of violence or its consequences were recorded or portrayed truthfully.

According to the Committee, there is a need for a long-term strategy to fight addiction to, as well as trafficking and sharing of drugs. Despite the fact that rehabilitation centers have been established in the Marijampolė and Pravieniškės correctional facilities, they will not have a lasting effect if prisoners are returned to an environment where others continue to use drugs. For example, 21 new HIV infections were reported at the Alytus correctional facility in 2016, with the number jumping to 58 in 2017.

In addition to cases of HIV and hepatitis, the system pays too little attention to prisoners’ psychosocial health. The Committee would like to know how the State plans to address these long-standing problems, all of which require a short- and long-term plans of action.

Lukiškės Remand Prison closed

After years of criticism from the Committee, the Vilnius Lukiškės Remand Prison was finally closed this July, with the inmates being transferred to other prisons. However, it remains to be seen whether this will ensure proper prison inmate conditions in the long term – convicts claim that they have not seen their loved ones for months, and transfer is likely to exacerbate the overcrowding issue.

Read the full CPT Report.