On the 26.07.2012 the Bulgarian Prisoners` Rehabilitation Association (B.P.R.A.) was registered in the Sofia City Court (Bulgaria). We are an association comprised completely of prisoners and ex-prisoners.
The Association is the voice of this part of the Bulgarian society, that up to now has been completely ignored- the prisoners. Our main goal is to reduce the massive difference between prisoners´ rights in other E.U. member states and these in Bulgaria. At the moment Bulgaria has the highest record of human rights abuses in their judicial system out of all the E.U. states. Yet, for many years Bulgaria´s inhumane prison administration has gone unnoticed by the international and European communities. The Association´s goals will be difficult to achieve as every facet of review in Bulgaria is corrupted by apathy, laziness, nepotism, cronyism and greed.
Bulgaria is one of the last E.U. states to have prisons and remand prisons without toilets or running water in the cells. This means potentially up to twelve prisoners defecating in an open bucket in one cell. There is no right to parole and the only visits are up to 40 minutes twice a month and only behind bars. The damaging effects of these practices upon the prisoners´s families and the prisoners´ mental health are well documented, yet the Bulgarian state still subscribes to ”the lock up and forget practices” of the 19th century. Bulgaria is one of the last countries in Europe that still has life sentence. There is no maximum prison term and people are sentenced to die in prison.
The Bulgarian penal code and legislation governing administrations are hundred years behind those of western European countries. To build new prisons would be useless, if the same corrupted administrators stay and if the law allowing them to make arbitrary decisions, will not be changed.
- The law must be changed to one protecting the rights of the prisoners. For example, the Bulgarian prison administrations are not required to justify why they don`t want to release a prisoner on parole.
- The administrators need to be purged of cronyism and all appointments of all prison employees need to be reviewed. An independent commission should be established that should receive prisoner´s complains and appeals.
- The criminal law should be changed so that the prisons are not full of petty thieves. For stealing 10 euros one can get up to 2 years in prison. The B.P.R.A. does not see this imprisonment as a solution to Bulgaria´s social problems.
The B.P.R.A. also is in solidarity with Emil Orlinov Aleksiev. He is a disabled prisoner in Sofia Central Prison who was brutally beaten up by a guard with a wood. Colleague Aleksiev was brave enough to submit a complaint, which arrived in the hands of the the guards and their collaborating “flying monkeys”. He has suffered physical assaults ever since.
The B.P.R.A. requests help and solidarity from across Europe. We hope that once people will be aware of the appalling state of affairs in the Bulgarian judicial system they will rally to reform corrupted Bulgaria.
Chairman of B.P.R.A. – Jock Palfreeman