By Atom Markarian
The government on Thursday set up a special fund to raise funds for improving conditions in Armenia’s prisons, in a move preceding their upcoming transfer under the jurisdiction of the justice ministry.
The fund called Support to Prisoners will be tasked with providing employment for prisoners and raising their educational level. The law-enforcement authorities hope that production facilities and training programs, which have largely disappeared since the Soviet period due to the lack of public funds, will improve their chances of rehabilitating convicted offenders. Justice Minister David Harutiunian welcomed the initiative, saying correction and re-education of inmates is essential for averting future crimes.
The fund, which is expected to be mainly financed by private contributors and international donors, will also aim to improve prison facilities and train prison personnel.
The justice ministry will start next October taking over all of the country’s jails except the pre-trial detention sites of police and the ministry of national security. The transfer, one of the conditions of Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe, will be completed in two months. Officials say it will allow them to “de-militarize” the system of criminal justice by turning the jails into “civilian institutions” where rights of prisons will be better protected.