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Bulgarian Aid Charity Foundation registered in Bulgaria

Foreign Prisoners Project Report No.001: 04/11/2010

Report 001, dated 04/11/2010

BACF Office Sofia, Bulgaria.

Foreign Prisoners Project


Sofia, Bulgaria, November 4th. 2010

Foreign Prisoners Project



Report on Phase 1- Fact Finding

001 Introduction After having the Project Proposal approved in principle by Petar Vasilev, Director General of the Bulgarian Prison Directorate at the Ministry of Justice, the matter was handed over for detailed scrutiny and final approval to Krum Petrov, in charge of Social Work within the Bulgarian Prison Directorate. After getting the final approval, we met the Liaison Officer fro the Project - Inspector Tsvetomir Borissov, who is in charge of Social Work for Foreign Prisoners (FP) in Sofia Prison. The next step was to arrange visits to Sofia Prison and to Kazichene Open Prison and start work on Phase 1 - Fact Finding. These are the two prisons in Bulgaria where all FPs are interned (but please refer to Para.008.1 for possible exceptions).

002 Visit to Sofia prison On 25/10/2010, Bryn Jones (BJ) accompanied by Stanislava Georgieva (SG) met with Insp. Borissov (IB) at Sofia Prison. The building is easy to travel to by public transport and is situated relatively close to Sofia Main Railway Station. The Foreign Prisoners (FP) are all in one wing with their own Social Work Programme and their own Work Programme. We were informed that in principle anyone can visit the FPs and that visits are allowed on the basis of 2 visits per month, each of 45 minutes with up to 4 persons at a time, that under special circumstances can be extended to 4 hours if earned through a points system (but see 004.5). More details about visiting under Paragraph 007. In October 2010 there are around 100 FP in Sofia Prison about 30 being able to speak English or German. Some FPs are waiting sentencing, others have been sentenced and still others are awaiting their first court appearance..

003 Interviews with Foreign Prisoners in Sofia The next stage of our visit was 4 hours of individual interviews with 8 FPs who spoke either English or German. The interviews took place inside the prison wing where the FPs are interned, in the office of Insp. Borissov. The interview was conducted by BJ in the presence of SG and IB but with one prisoner at a time and no set time limit for the individual interview. The interview was based on BJ inviting the person to speak as openly as he could about his thoughts, experiences and feelings about the very specific theme of 'Prison visits by his family and any associated problems'. It was explained that the new project was centred purely on the subject of 'Visits for FPs'. The conditions for the interview were favourable, the room being warm and the atmosphere friendly and it soon became obvious that IB was held in high regard by the FPs. IB has been at Sofia Prison for 6 months and represents a new generation of Prison Staff - many with university education and progressive attitudes towards the handling of prisoners.

004 General Conditions for FPs. in Sofia Prison Without going into details of the individual personal difficulties of the FPs, it slowly emerged that the following are the main areas of concern 1. Outgoing telephone calls are allowed, but the cost of phoning abroad is exorbitant, up to 6 Euro per minute for some countries. Incoming phone calls are not allowed, reverse charging calls are not allowed. Up to 10 telephone numbers have to be registered with the Prison Administration and calls are only allowed to these numbers. 2. Letters per post are not a problem. Both incoming and outgoing post seems to function with little or no difficulties.

Foreign Prisoners Project



3. Parcel post on the other hand is often a major problem. Parcels coming in from abroad are sometimes not delivered or even sent back to sender and so on. However it must be pointed out that this problem has nothing to do with the Prison Administration - it is a problem in Bulgaria as a whole! Possible grounds could well be insufficient postal fees, incorrectly filled in customs forms or even wrongly addressed parcels. The other aspect is that for many prisoners a parcel is his only source of vital items like clothes, underwear, particular foodstuffs, radio etc - things that he cannot otherwise get if he has no visitors who bring him these things. 4. A very small minority of FOPs get regular visits - the vast majority get very infrequent or even no visits at all. 5. The points system under which the FPs earn more visiting time, early release, etc. is not very transparent and needs further investigation. 6. Some Foreign Consulates seem to be more willing and/or able to help FPs than others. 7. Inside Sofia Prison there is a medical unit that apparently is able to deal with all medical needs including an operating theatre. We did not visit this unit. 8. There is a special printing workshop where the FPs can work to earn money and points. 9. Also inside Sofia Prison is an Orthodox Church as well as various sport and fitness facilities. 10. All this information was derived from personal observation or through the individual interviews. Even though at this stage it was not possible to have private one-to-one interviews with the FPs, nevertheless the information is probably quite reliable due both to the level of trust towards IB and the fact of their being able to shake hands with and speak openly, to an albeit unknown visitor, whilst sitting opposite him without any chains, handcuffs or physical obstruction separating them. These first interviews were specifically not concerned with legal or personal difficulties, but were focussed on issues around family contact, visits and visitors.

005 Visit to Kazichene Open Prison. On October 27th 2010, SG and BJ met with IB in Sofia and we all went to Kazichene an Open Prison Facility around 20 Kms. east of Sofia. There we met the Director, Stanislav Stoianov, who was friendly and open and seemed to be interested in cooperating with us on the Project even though this was the first he had heard about it! The procedure this time was quite different - possibly because this Prison Administration were not informed and not prepared. We, Director Stoianov, SG, IB, and BJ met around a conference table in the Directors office with three FPs, one of whom spoke English, one who spoke German and one who actually spoke neither but stayed because the other two asked if he could please stay and promised to translate the proceedings to him afterwards!

006 Interviews with Foreign Prisoners in Kazichene Open Prison. During the course of this meeting/group interview we learnt the following ... 1. Even though it is an ‘open’ facility, the FPs are not allowed to leave the facility at all. 2. Bulgarian prisoners who have an offer of work are however allowed out every working day in the morning, are free to shop, meet family and friends and telephone during their lunch hour and come back in the evening to be locked up for the night. 3. The official explanation for this discrepancy was the increased risk of fleeing the country for the FPs. Further investigation seems necessary here. 4. Similar to the situation in Sofia Prison, the costs of telephone calls abroad are also exorbitant.

Foreign Prisoners Project


BACF 5. The number of FPs in total is unclear (maybe approx. 30?) but around 12/15 seem to be able to speak English or German with a handful of Dutch speakers. The vast majority of FPs in Kazichene are of Turkish origin even though many are resident in Western or Eastern European states. 6. There does exist a point system for good behaviour but it does not seem to be very transparent. However specific work is rewarded by earlier release based on 1/2 a day off the sentence for 8 hours work in the prison. 7. The problem is that there is hardly any work inside the Prison except a little cleaning work from time to time and some work in the kitchen and there is of course massive competition for these very limited workplaces. 8. A School exists inside the Prison staffed by Bulgarian schoolteachers to combat the massive illiteracy amongst the Bulgarian prison population. The School also has an informal study programme for the FPs to learn to speak and write Bulgarian. It will, according to the Director, be possible within our Programme, to offer Drawing and Painting classes for FPs at the Prison School with teacher and materials supplied by BACF. (A BACF team member, Vladimir Georgiev, a professional artist, will investigate this). 9. The problems with parcels and visitors are similar to those at Sofia Prison, with the added difficulty of this facility being very inaccessible other than by private transport. We were unable to establish or visit the physical conditions under which FPs are able to receive visitors except that we were informed that they are allowed 2 visits per month with each visit lasting 45 minutes and up to 4 persons visiting at any one time. The Director also said that under particular circumstances the time could be extended up to 4 hours. However, there are rarely visitors for the FPs in Kazichene.

007 Conditions for visiting FPs. in Sofia Prison Whether a FP receives a visit from a family member, a friend or someone else the conditions and procedure are the same. The normal visit is for 45 mins. twice a month with a maximum of 4 persons per FP and the visitors usually have to arrive at the Prison early in the morning and wait for their turn. They are then ushered into a large room with 18 cubicles built of wire mesh and reinforced glass behind which sit 18 prisoners. As a visitor you have to go, one at a time, to the cubicle, pick up the telephone and you can then talk to the prisoner. When you have finished, the next one in your visitor group can take your place and so on. The visitors who are waiting their turn have to sit on a bench about 3 metres behind the one who is speaking. It remained unclear how a 4 hour visit would be organised.

008 General Conclusions/Comments - Sofia/Kazichene 1. All FPs in Bulgaria end up at one time or another in Sofia or Kazichene, although there could be isolated cases of some sitting in provincial prisons after being arrested there and awaiting their court appearance, at which point they are transferred to Sofia. 2. FPs fall into two categories ... those arrested but awaiting court appearance and/or sentencing (only at Sofia Prison) and those that have been sentenced.( Sofia or Kazichene depending on whether they receive a severe or light sentence). 3. The crimes committed in Bulgaria by FPs are basically the same as by other criminals and range from drug smuggling to rape and murder. However the majority of FPs are sentenced or accused for drug-related offences and at the time of writing this report, October 2010, a majority of them are of Turkish origin but living in Western or Eastern Europe. The others come from all over the world. 4. There are hardly any visitors at all for most of the FPs.

Bryn Jones,

Sofia, Bulgaria.

Foreign Prisoners Project

November 4th. 2010


BACF: Foreign Prisoners Project  

Report on the conditions of foreign prisoners in Bulgarian State Prisons

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