On Friday, February 7, 2014, approximately 800 prisoners at the Geguti prison in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia staged a hunger strike over their conditions of confinement, in particular physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the prison guards and poor medical care. Since then, the severity of the prison protests has only increased, with at least 17 inmates stabbing themselves in protest, several of whom were taken to an area hospital for treatment of their self-inflicted injuries.
In the country of Georgia, unlike the United States, what happens in prison seems to affect outside politics. A case in point concerns videos leaked in 2012 which shows prisoners being sexually abused by prison guards, which Georgian polls revealed led to the shocking defeat of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. The new Georgian government has vowed to reform the nation’s prisons and to release many low-level, low-risk prisoners.
The situation at Geguti prison has escalated for a number of reasons. While the prison administration alleges that it is a result of “mafia dons” upset at their loss of stature, prisoners’ right activists vehemently object, stating that it is a result of poor medical care and regular assaults on inmates by prison guards. While the prison administration says that the situation has since been brought back under control, prisoners’ families disagree, saying that the hunger strikes and self-inflicted stabbings continue and that the administration is hiding the true magnitude of the continued struggle in Geguti prison. At least for the time being, an around-the-clock vigil is being held outside Geguti prison by prisoners’ rights activists and the families of those incarcerated there.
To learn more about this ongoing prison protest and hunger strike, visit IOL News.