So are there restrictions on parcels for prisoners?


In the last few days there have been fairly conflicting reports in the media over a question which is of no small significance for a very large number of prisoners.

The Penal Code imposes restrictions on the number of parcels prisoners may receive.  The justification for these is already questionable, however it should be noted that over recent years the annual Law on the Budget has suspended their force.

So far, so legal: one law temporarily suspends the force of another law. 

This year, however, the Constitutional Court in a crucial judgment found unconstitutional a number of provisions of the Law of the Budget which suspended the force of normal laws.  The irony is that the judgment of 22 May was mainly aimed at preventing the narrowing of constitutional rights via the suspension of certain benefits for the year of the Budget in question.  This suspension of the force of benefits which the law entitles people to has become standard practice of Ukrainian governments, and the Constitutional Court had already declared such restrictions for 2007 unconstitutional.

With regard to parcels, however, the situation is rather different.  The Code imposes limits, the Budget sought to remove them (temporarily).  The reason is clear: the penal service is abysmally run down and prisoners need the food, medication etc which their families send.

On 28 May the Cabinet of Ministers passed a Resolution which removed the restrictions.  So is the problem solved?  Oleksandr Bukalov of Donetsk Memorial is sceptical. A Cabinet of Ministers Resolution is not a law and if the Penal Code needs changing, it must be at the level of a fully-fledged law. There are also restrictions which are presently imposed on the basis of Internal Regulations.  These include, for example, a ban on people being held in PKT (cell-like conditions, a form of punishment).  The Penal Code does not have any such restrictions.  Their validity must also be questioned.

In short, the situation clearly needs to be reconsidered and regulated in law, bearing in mind both the situation in penal institutions and justification for restrictions, and the fact that with such lack of clarity there is a worrying amount of scope for individual penal staff to make arbitrary decisions.

Based on different reports posted at:

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