The Reform of the Bulgarian Penitentiary System: Current State and Future Prospects

    Krassimir Kanev and Dilyana Angelova

This research was carried out by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) under the project “Evaluation of the reform in places of deprivation of liberty in Bulgaria − Legislation and practice after the pilot judgment of the ECtHR Neshkov and Others v. Bulgaria”, funded by the “Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria” under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The project’s overarching objective is to improve the implementation of international human rights standards in detention facilities and in prisons in Bulgaria. The initiative continues BHC’s long-standing work in monitoring of the situation in prison institutions, advocating for respect of prisoners’ rights and empowering vulnerable groups. For its implementation, BHC received support from the General Directorate for the Execution of Punishments (GDIN) and the Ombudsman as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

This book examines and assesses the effect of the practical and legislative measures taken by the Bulgarian government following the European Court of Human Rights pilot judgment in the case of Neshkov and Others v. Bulgaria. The research identifies the shortcomings of the penitentiary system reform and outlines the areas where the implementation of the Court’s general measures should continue. The results of the study will be communicated to national authorities and the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which monitors the implementation of the Court’s judgments.

In the first part, a comprehensive review of the international standards for the treatment of prisoners in the penitentiary system and the recommendations of international human rights bodies to Bulgaria is made. The review focuses on the standards formulated within the bodies and institutions of the United Nations and the Council of Europe - the two organizations Bulgaria has been a member of for several decades.

The second part presents the results of the research on the effects of the changes after the Court’s pilot judgment in the case of Neshkov and Others v. Bulgaria, which gave rise to a comprehensive reform of the penitentiary system in Bulgaria.