"The shop in the jail is great, just not enough gingerbread"

Tetyana Literati, "Staryj Zamok"  11 October 2012 09:49  32722367 022901
"The shop in the jail is great, just not enough gingerbread"

- say prisoners' relatives, who bring deliveries over barbed wire

The room for delivery receiving in the Uzhgorod penitentiary is always crowded. Relatives and friends bring packages to those who are waiting their verdict here. Those packages contain clothing, hygiene products and, most importantly, the food, because the jail diet is simple and the only thing you can indulge yourself in is goodies from home.

"For me, my son will always be dear child, though he made a mistake in life"

The "Zamok" asked what kind of things family members deliver to prisoners and how these things are checked by the prison workers.The deputy chief of the Transcarpathian penitentiary in charge of social, educational and psychological work Vladislav Verbych agreed to be our guide.

Together we walk past the main entrance to the small door, climb the stairs and get into a room divided in half by a small window through which a young woman is handing packages. Two other visitors are waiting in line behind her. In the room there are few tables, some chairs, even a small aquarium.

Because prisoners are allowed to use money from special accounts, the deliveries are not that needed. Now everyone waiting for a court decision in remand prison can buy everything they need at the store.

While we are talking, receiving of deliveries through the window continues. Two employees, one by one, look through each items carefully shaking and probing it. "In this area of ​​work only the most experienced workers are put - continues Vladislav Verbych. - They need to know where it is possible to hide illegal things, to be careful and observant, because the behavior of the person who brought the delivery - whether calm or agitated - can indicate if they try to deliver something prohibited."

In order not to miss anything, every thing is subjected to a real "torture." Bread is usually delivered already cut, or it will be cut lengthwise, sugar, tea, coffee are accepted only in plastic bags without branded packaging. Ketchup is carefully felt, tubes of toothpaste are checked with a long awl, fruits are are either cut, or punctured. Clothing is also inspected very carefully: they check the seams, backing and pockets. Such measures are not unfounded. People who try to deliver drugs or phone cards for their friends and familiy members behind barbed wire, sometimes show considerable imagination. Thus, the employees of delivery receiving room have found phone SIM-cards or money underneath a banana peel, under insoles, in packs of ketchup.

Alcohol has been concealed in bottles of oil, mineral water, often they have tried to illegally deliver yeast that inmates use to make a prison wine of bread. Those who have been caught trying to deliver illegal things are brought to administrative and even (in case of drugs) criminal liability.

We asked if there are any prisoners who do not receive deliveries at all.It turns out that there are a lot of such people, but the prison has an unwritten rule that one who receives something tasty, has to share with the cellmates. However, not every item brought for prisoners is immediately delivered to the cell. For example, canned food is kept in a specially designated place. On the prisoner's request, they bring it in the cell, open it in his presence, but the can (as a potentially dangerous item) is immediately taken away.

The prisoners are also allowed to have other household goods: disposable razor, antiperspirants, and creams (the only condition - not in a glass container), for women - even cosmetics and toiletries. But belts, ties, watches and laces are taken away from persons suspected of committing a crime in order to avoid possibility of suicide. The only entertainment available to "guests" of the Uzhgorod penitentiary are television sets that are permitted to watch from the morning to lights out (the TV sets are also delivered by family members, in every cell no more than one set is allowed), and books that can be taken in the prison library. By the way, the library in the institution is quite large, there are more than three thousand books there. It is constantly updated, so inmates can read even modern Ukrainian literature.

Now Uzhgorod remand prison is filled. There are more than 400 prisoners, including 14 women, 14 juvenile delinquents and 20 foreigners, there. Also 20 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment reside there. Vladislav Verbych says, the current number of detainees is not a record, because last year the institution contained 725 inmates. Meanwhile, in the history of this building there was a period when it was empty. It was built in 1926 specifically as a prison. It was ultramodern, because it was equipped with sanitation and reliable means of protection. During the entire existence of the institution no prisoner could escape from there, and the building is so durable, that over the years it has never needed repair (now only the roof needs to be renovated). According to archival data, in 1938, there was not a single prisoner in the institution, which demonstrtates the extremely low level of criminality in the region, and the high living level of Transcarpathians at that period.

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