Based on the annual findings of domestic and international state and non-state organizations, Armenia’s prisons remain overcrowded.
The problem remains even though the country’s judicial sector has undergone a series of alleged reforms.
Today, the offices of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union in Armenia organized a roundtable discussion on the issue of prison overcrowding and recommendations made by the CoE to address the situation.
The European experts said they were hopeful that in six months Armenia’s Ministry of Justice will come up with a plan of action to implement the recommendations.
The recommendation’s cover such issues as conditional release, expanding alternative punishment, etc. Measures to prevent crimes from happening in the first place also helps resolve the overcrowding problem.
Many countries have deemed it wiser to invest heavily in crime prevention rather than dealing with the ensuing consequences.
Avetik Ishkhanyan, President of Armenia’s Helsinki Committee, noted that the overcrowding problem stems from several factors.
“First, detention in Armenia is applied as a mainly preventative measure. A detained person is vulnerable and often confesses to whatever the state investigators are pushing,” Ishkhanyan said.
Ishkhanyan also noted that sentences handed down in Armenia are often excessive and gave the example, published in Hetq, of a man who was sentenced to four years just for trying to steal his neighbor’s chickens.
MP Edmon Maroukyan said that prison overcrowding is also due to the fact that the mechanism of conditional release only exists on paper.
“There is no political resolve to make it happen. There is no foresight. Those in control today lack the vision and the new generation don’t make the decisions. We have a conservative government, not a reformist one. Until comprehensive change occurs, these problems will not be resolved,” Maroukyan said.
Anna Melikyan, a lawyer with the Civil Society Institute NGO, said that 87% of all inmates have been sentenced to five years of less.
Thus, Melikyan argued, these individuals could have been given alternative punishments.