The majority (60.94%) of penalties against the inmates of Armenian penitentiary institutions are imposed for possession of prohibited mobile phones, the Group of Public Observers Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies of the RA Ministry of Justice said in a statement issued on Tuesday, June 9.
Although the inmates are punished for possession of banned cell phones (by receiving a reprimand, a severe reprimand, or by being transferred to a punishment cell for up to 15 days), however, internal investigations are not carried out to find out the circumstances in which these objects entered the institutions; while smuggling a prohibited item into a prison, the Group points out, is an administrative offense and is punishable by an administrative penalty in the amount of AMD 100-500 thousand.
According to the study conducted by the Group of Public Observers, from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014, inmates of Armenian penitentiaries were punished for possession of 1,576 cell phones, meanwhile, the Prison administration has initiated only 7 official investigations, as a result of which disciplinary penalty was imposed against 7 penitentiary employees for violation of rules of procedure for places of detention and correctional facilities.
In connection with the same facts a total of 48 internal investigations have been conducted within the penitentiary institutions; that is, only in 3% of cell phone possession cases.
“The number of internal investigations and penalties for prohibited cell phones gives grounds to assert that and / or the Ministry of Justice of Armenia, and / or the Criminal-Executive Department, and / or Prison administrations have shown inaction as regards the entrance of prohibited mobile phones into the penitentiaries, which suggests big corruption risks.
“Based on the above-mentioned observation, the Group of Public Observers Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies of the RA Ministry of Justice proposes to discuss the issue of legalizing cell phones. The Group is currently working on a package of proposals,” the statement said.