Artak Haratyunyan, First Deputy Director of the Penitentiary Service at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Thomas Müller; Arpine Sarsgyan, Head of Department of Prison Policy at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Heinz Brüche; Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ project coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)
Artak Haratyunyan, First Deputy Director of the Penitentiary Service at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Thomas Müller; Arpine Sarsgyan, Head of Department of Prison Policy at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Heinz Brüche; Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ project coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)
Armenia

On 5 March 2020, a closing conference was held in Yerevan to mark the end of the pilot project for penal institutions, which began in 2016. The IRZ was commissioned to lead the project by the Penitentiary Service at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia. Under the title “Practical issues in prisons: the development of customised concepts to deal with the most urgent issues at four prisons in Armenia”, the project included workshops, expert talks and advice on the introduction of modern sentence planning and treatment methods at prisons in Armavir, Abovyan, Artik and Sevan. Around forty employees from the four prisons took part in the conference, as well as:

  • Artak Haratyunyan, First Deputy Director of the Penitentiary Service at the Ministry of Justice,
  • Gohar Simonyan, Head of the Department for the Prevention of Mistreatment and Torture at the Ombudsman’s office, and
  • Gayane Hovakimyan, Deputy Director of the Centre for the Implementation of Legal Education and Rehabilitation Programmes (SNCO).

The conference was opened by the Head of Department for Prison Policy at the Armenian Ministry of Justice, Arpine Sarsgyan, and Amalia Wuckert from the IRZ. Afterwards, Ruben Darbinyan, Chief of Staff at the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice, outlined the current situation in Armenian prisons.

The IRZ experts Thomas Müller, a senior government official and Director of the Karlsruhe prison, and Heinz Brüche, Head of Training for law enforcement services in Baden-Württemberg, presented the overall project and reported on the work carried out within the project. Afterwards, the representatives of the various working groups presented the work carried out during the workshops and the results for the relevant prisons.

The following issues were discussed:

  • How has the prison actually benefited from the project?
  • Which measures have been introduced in the prison as a result of the project?
  • Which measures are planned for further impementation?
  • Which other measures would be important for achieving the objectives set by European targets?
  • What are the requirements in terms of personnel and resources for implementing these measures in the prison?
  • What other requirements need to be considered, with a view to future cooperation with European partners?

During their speeches and contributions to discussions, all the participants stressed the considerable importance of the project for Armenia. The Armenians expressed the wish for more in-depth training for psychologists and social workers at the prisons on the implementation and application of standardised diagnosis procedures and treatment methods. It was also suggested that the same project be carried out as basic training at four other prisons.

Background of the pilot project

During expert discussions held in Yerevan in July 2016 to establish the cooperation between the German and Armenian prison authorities, plans were drawn up for a major project to cover four selected prisons. These discussions were attended by the IRZ Head of Section and a German expert, as well as the Head of the Penitentiary Service at the Armenian Ministry of Justice, the Head of the Ombudsman’s office and the Directors of the two prisons in Armavir and Abovyan.

Within the framework of this project, several workshops took place at the four selected prisons – Armavir, Abovyan, Artik and Sevan. Those involved in the project at these prisons also held expert talks, took advice on weak areas and developed joint strategies.

The main topics addressed during the workshops were:

  • rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners
  • risk management and evaluation methods
  • support and therapy options available in penal institutions.
  • reorganisation of quarantine stations in intake divisions to include diagnosis of criminogenic factors and establish sentence planning
  • introduction of treatment measures to improve criminal prognosis
  • management structures in prisons and delegation of responsibility
  • creation of work and leisure opportunities for prisoners
The German experts Thomas Müller and Heinz Brüche were appointed by the IRZ to lead the workshops, during which prison staff from the prisons concerned worked on suggestions for improving the prisons, which were complemented by the experts’ recommendations.