The March 27 prison riot in Tbilisi is dominating the current Georgian press, as most newspapers question the effectiveness of the authorities’ policies to improve conditions in the penal system.
The daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) says that the recent staff reshuffle in the prison system has failed to bring about any results. “Expectations that Shota Kopadze’s [former chief of the prison system] dismissal would have been followed by systematic reforms have been frustrated,” the newspaper reads.
“After the staff changes, some concrete steps [ocurred] aimed at reforms and establishment of order and destruction of the rule of ‘thieves-in-law,' - including the opening of a new detention center in Kutaisi and separation of criminal authorities [from other inmates]… as well as the adoption of a law on the fight against organized crime and racketeering… But that was all. No other steps aimed at reforms were undertaken in the panel system. Isolation of several ‘thieves-in-law’ does not mean the reform of the penal system. It is clear that the job will not be done without systematic reforms,” the 24 Saati says.
The paper also warns that there are thousands of relatives and family members behind those 9,000 inmates who are in the Georgian prisons. “If things continue the way they are now, the authorities – whose major basis has been public confidence expressed after the ‘velvet revolution’ – will face a threat of losing this public confidence,” the paper says.
According to the daily Rezonansi (Resonance) “the parliamentary majority was initially confused by the prison mutiny” and parliamentarians from the ruling party started to make comments only after consultations with Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze. MP Elene Tevdoradze was the only one who made a comment and demanded a probe into the case – the request coincided with the one put forth by the opposition parties. But, according to Rezonansi, MP Tevdoradze softened her stance later, especially after she sparred over the issue with influential parliamentarian from the ruling party Giga Bokeria.
Rezonansi reports that the ruling National Movement party and the country’s top leadership “spared no efforts to qualify [the prison riot] as an attempted coup,” while the opposition blamed chief of prison system Bacho Akhalaia for the inhuman treatment of inmates, which triggered the prisoners' protests.