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Penal Reform International to change lives of prisoners in Kazakhstan

16 november 2013, 02:12
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Marat Beketayev. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan
Marat Beketayev. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan
Penal Reform International (PRI) will change the lives of prisoners in Kazakhstan and help the country on its way to humanize the penal system, Tengrinews reports.

Central Asian office of Penal Reform International is launching a project to improve the quality of social and medical services in Kazakhstan prisons. The project is called Improvement of Medical and Social Services in Female and Juvenile Penal Institutions of Kazakhstan.

The 3-year project will be implemented in two penal institutions: juvenile correctional penal colony LA 155/6 in Almaty and the only general regime female penal colony in western Kazakhstan UG 157/11 located in Atyrau.

According to the organizers of the project, who visited the female penal colony, their task is to bring the process of serving punishments in the Kazakhstan prisons closer to the European standards.

The main focus of the project is to improve the quality of medical services. It involves brining qualified doctors on a regular basis and procurement of additional medical equipment.

Accomplished psychologists will be working with women in prisons, rendering them moral support and preparing them for normal life outside the prison. This will help reduce the number of criminal relapses that is still pretty high. Experts believe that the main reason behind the repetition rate is that people who come out of prisons are either unprepared to meet the contingencies of life or deeply psychologically traumatized.

Education is the second focus area of the program. There are schools and colleges in the said penal institutions already. But this project involves attraction of more teachers and procurement of additional educational equipment. Special emphasis will be placed on teaching women and children to use the compute. Computer rooms will be created for the classes.

There are also plans to expand the range of employment options for convicts. According to the prison administration, there are plenty of those willing to get a job rather than just serve a term in prison. Most of the women have children outside the prison, who need support, including the finical one. Currently, only 70 out of 232 imprisoned women are employed in the bakery and clothing production in the penal colony in Atyrau.

Besides, the penal institution lacks conditions for the prisoners’ meetings with their children. Special rooms with playgrounds for kids will be organized to address this probkem. According to PRI Regional Director Saule Mektepbayeva, this will help strengthen the family ties.

Speaking about the sources of funding Saule Mektepbayeva named Marat Beketayev as a sponsor of the program: “Marat Beketayev donated £300,000 ($483 thousand) for the project. Being a non-executive director of ENRC, he donated his salary for the past several years to Penal Reform International.”

"I was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of London-listed Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Plc in March 2008. According to Kazakhstan and British legislations, I have no right to put my salary in ENRC to any personal use and have to donate it for charity. I could have donated the money to orphanages or charity foundation, but I believe that female and juvenile penal institutions deserve no less attention,” Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan Marat Beketayev told Tengrinews commenting his decision.

Mr. Beketayev explained that he grew up in Zarechny village of Almaty Oblast and his father worked in the penal system – LA 155/8 maximum security penal colony is located in the village. Besides, while holding senior positions in the Ministry of Justice, Marat Beketayev was supervising medical and social coverage of prisons for several years. “I am well aware of the problems existing in the penal system. This money will be spent on providing high-quality medical and social services in female and juvenile penal institutions,” he said.

"I am confident that this project will help many women and children become sound members of our society. Besides, the experience that we will be gained can be then applied in the prison reforms in Kazakhstan," Marat Beketayev concluded.

The project will be implemented by Penal Reform International. The expenditures will be supervised by the Board of Trustees consisting of prominent penal reform experts, including famous writer Jonathan Aitken, a political scientist and leading expert of the Carnegie Endowment Martha Olcott, and Deputy Minister of Justice of Norway Andreas Skulberg.

Penal Reform International (PRI) is an international nongovernmental organization working on penal and criminal justice reform worldwide. Founded in London in 1989, and now present at five continents and in over 80 countries, PRI shares best practice and expertise across regions, and is working to develop and promote culture specific solutions for criminal justice and penal reform.

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