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‘Try to Picture 15 Men Sleeping and Co-Existing on a Few Square Meters’

Originally published on Facebook in Armenian by journalist Zhanna Sargsyan:

– I want to write about a very sensitive and neglected issue. I got the info from prisoners; you’re free to consider it one-sided…

The inmates of the Nubarashen penitentiary institution [in Yerevan] are deprived of basic human rights. With the appointment of the new prison head, the situation has gotten even worse. They don’t have access to first medical aid; all the doctors have resigned. There is a new dentist, who has been given a sole instruction to remove the tooth, and not treat it. They say that he wants to leave, too. Many have retired, even the regime chiefs. It would be hard to find out the actual cause: they claim that they cannot work with the new prison head. The new head is not really that new: he has past experience in the system.

Now let’s talk about the prisoners. There are cell with 15 inmates. The law provides for 8 beds for 8 prisoners. Try to picture 15 men sleeping and co-existing on a few square meters.

A man with serious health issues, who has undergone several heart surgeries, is not allowed to at least receive necessary medications from home, while the prison lacks the most basic drugs and provides only useless painkillers. The person responsible for giving out the pills works until 1pm; the prisoners do not get additional pills to at least numb the pain until the morning.

Calling an ambulance can be a hassle: you need to scream until they decide to approach you and listen to your complaint. Then you have to prove that you really need medical care, after which the guards need to contact the management and get their permission. A person suffering a heart attack would not even be able to utter a full word…

And don’t get me started on food… The prison has an enormous budget for it, but the prisoners’ relatives take turns to bring food for all the inmates in the cell. This is a terrible burden for a family that has been deprived of their main breadwinner.

Let’s just not forget that people are divided into two groups: those who are in captivity, and those who have managed to avoid it.