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The Dignity of Punishment: Vulnerable Prisoners’ Rights in Lithuania

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Legal Protection of Vulnerable Groups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland

Abstract

This chapter discusses the existing challenges in securing the rights of prisoners in Lithuania. In the European context, Lithuania is known for its large number of prisoners, strict criminal policy and difficulties in ensuring the rights of vulnerable groups. The authors of this chapter discuss cultural, legal and organisational obstacles that hinder the effective resolution of long-standing human rights problems in Lithuanian prisons. The chapter focuses on human rights issues such as the negative impact of criminal subculture, the rights of specific groups of vulnerable prisoners (prisoners with substance abuse problems, mental disorders and disabilities) and the right of prisoners to maintain contact with their relatives. These aspects have been selected taking into account the human rights problems in Lithuanian prisons highlighted in scientific research, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and national courts, reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and national human rights institutions and organisations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In 2018, the rate of prisoners in Lithuania was 232 per 100,000 inhabitants (Eurostat 2020).

  2. 2.

    In making this statement, we take into account the fact during five visits of CPT similar findings were made regarding human rights violations in Lithuanian prisons: ill-treatment of officials and violence between convicts (humiliation, harm, etc.), overcrowded prisons, small living spaces, poor prison conditions, low employment of convicts, architecture and management of prisons, which allow the development of a criminal subculture of convicts (CPT, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2018).

  3. 3.

    Our focus on these aspects of prisoner rights does not mean that there are no other important human rights issues in prisons. For example, according previous research that problematic areas of human rights in Lithuanian prisons are physical conditions of detention (Nikartas 2013), the right to release of life prisoners (Kūris 2018; Nikartas and Čepas 2014), ill treatment (CPT Lithuania 2011, 2018). However, we selected those areas that were less analysed in previous publications.

  4. 4.

    The ECtHR recognizes that a certain level of suffering in the execution of a custodial sentence is inevitable. The Court assesses the violation of the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) in cases where the necessary level of imprisonment is exceeded. As a general rule, the ECtHR considers such ‘excess’ to be violence against prisoners (Aksoy v. Turkey (1996); Selmouni v. France (1999); Česnulevičius v. Lithuania (2012)), degrading physical conditions of detention (eg small cell space, poor ventilation, heating, sanitation, etc.) (Karalevičius v. Lithuania (2005); Peers v. Greece (2001); Savenkovas v. Lithuania (2008)), lack of hope for release (Vinter and Others v. The United Kingdom (2013); Murray v. Netherlands (2013); Matijošaitis and others v. Lithuania (2017)).

  5. 5.

    The delegation was again inundated with allegations of prisoners having been subjected to violence (including violence of a sexual character and forcing fellow prisonersto perform slave labour) from the members of informal prisoner hierarchies, whose power was reportedly linked with the omnipresence of illicit drugs and alcohol (as well as mobile telephones and dangerous objects including bladed weapons) and facilitated by a very low prison staff presence (as well as, at least to a certain degree, staff collusion and corruption).

  6. 6.

    Cases where the convict refuses (probably due to the influence of the subculture) to report the violence used against him are also disclosed in ECtHR cases, such as Česnulevičius v. Lithuania and Tautkus v. Lithuania.

  7. 7.

    It should be noted here that international documents pay considerable attention to the protection of prisoners from physical violence. However, as discussed in the chapter, the phenomenon of subculture is much broader, and violence is only one of the consequences of subculture.

  8. 8.

    Possibly, these numbers do not reveal the actual extent of the problem, as they include only officially diagnosed cases.

  9. 9.

    However, in order to schedule these visits both spouses must have a right to receive all the visits listed in Section 6. If one of the spouses is allocated to the disciplinary category, he or she does not have a right to receive long-term visits. In such cases long-term visits cannot be scheduled.

  10. 10.

    According to Article 91 of the CECP, a transfer to the open colony opens up a more favourable short-term leave conditions.

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Nikartas, S., Jarutienė, L. (2022). The Dignity of Punishment: Vulnerable Prisoners’ Rights in Lithuania. In: Limantė, A., Pūraitė-Andrikienė, D. (eds) Legal Protection of Vulnerable Groups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. European Union and its Neighbours in a Globalized World, vol 8. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06998-7_11

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