Health Problems of Juvenile Offenders in Georgia

8 Jul, 2011

The Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) and the Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT) have published results of monitoring of a Juvenile special facility. The study evaluates health care standards in the penitentiary system and covers questions related to the physical and mental health needs of juvenile convicts.

The study was initiated in 2010 under the memorandum signed with the Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal assistance of Georgia. The monitoring process lasted for 6 months.

The purpose of the monitoring was to define the basic health problems and needs in the Avchala Juvenile Special Facility (residing up to 150 juvenile offenders), to find out factors preventing access to medical services, provide analysis of causes and provide recommendations.

The research findings make it clear that in many cases the medical staff responds adequately to problems. The Ministry is willing and has made efforts to introduce efficient tools of administration and improve the management system, however there are some administration and management problems. “There are different gaps. For instance, the information system is not well organized. Juvenile convicts are not taken to a special facility if their health condition gets worse. Sometimes inmates of the correctional facility do not have access to medical care. I should note, however that the Ministry is already trying to resolve the current problems”, said Nino Kiknadze, an OSGF representative.

The research also revealed the lack of funds provided for health services of the facility. This is the reason why juvenile offenders do not undergo a physical and mental examination when they are taken to the facility. Zurab Azmaiparashvili, a medical expert, says: “the facility has inefficient TB screening. The screening relies on information of questionnaire alone. If a positive response is received, they make only bacteriological analysis of the phlegm, which might not show a real picture”, said the expert.

Little attention is paid to disease prevention activities. Quite often it is impossible to isolate facility inmates with infectious diseases. They have complained about frequent dermatologic infections.

One of the chapters of the report is dedicated to the evaluation of the mental health of adolescents. The research shows that 2/3 of the juvenile offenders have mental health problems. There are 3 main disorders found in them: post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioral disorders and anti-sociological disorder. Depression and anxiety disorders present the major problem.

“Certain problems were exposed in the mental health field. Screening and in-depth interviews suggest that up to 70% of adolescents have one or more mental health problem. The facility should provide mental health screening in order to detect problems in the early stage and develop the strategy for the protection of the mental health of juvenile offenders”, said Lela Tsiskarishvili, the study coordinator.

The presentation was attended by experts, juvenile rights advocates and representatives of respective public bodies. Otar Toidze, the chairman of the Health Care Committee of Parliament, said the study was interesting for the authorities and that they would work to deal with the problems.

“The research shows we can study the requirements and challenges the health care and penitentiary systems are facing today through employing modern methods. I think this evidence based research will lead to the development of recommendations, which will be taken into account by respective ministries. Parliament will also discuss the recommendations and we will be probably need to review some legislative norms either”, said Toidze.

Archil Talakvadze of the Public Defender’s Office, Irakli Sasania, a public health expert, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, a medical expert, Nino Makhashvili, a mental health expert and Lela Tsiskarishvili, a representative of the Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, were involved in the study.

See the full version of the report.